Everybody Wins! Participation Trophies Linked With Political Persuasion


Personal Liberty Poll

Exercise your right to vote.

More than half of Americans believe kids should get trophies only for competitive activities in which they’ve placed or won. But nearly half also think trophies should go to any kid who simply shows up, regardless of whether they excel or fail.

A Reason/Rupe poll conducted earlier this month covered a broad range of topics, but the trophy findings were interesting enough for Reason to devote a standalone article to that portion of the survey. Forty percent of those questioned said every child who participates in an event are deserving of a trophy, while 57 percent responded that trophies should only go to the winners.

Not surprisingly, the “everyone’s a winner” sympathy is stronger among people who identify as Democrats. Emily Ekins, director of polling for the Reason Foundation, broke down that relationship:

The desire for “every kid to get a trophy” strongly correlates with political beliefs. Fully 66 percent of Republicans want only the kids who win to receive trophies, while 31 percent say all kids on the team should receive them. In contrast, Democrats are evenly divided with 48 percent who say all kids, and another 48 percent who say only the winners should receive a trophy.

Breaking it down further, the survey found that independent voters who lean Republican had the highest level of support — 69 percent — for rewarding only those who excel. In fact, a majority from all groups (except for Democrats and their fitting 48-48 percent tie) from across the political spectrum believe only winners should get trophies.

It doesn’t stop at simple party affiliation, though. People who revealed they hold conservative values on certain topics were more apt to favor rewarding only the winners than people who said they hold more liberal views.

“Among those who only think winners should get a trophy, 64 percent have a favorable view of capitalism, 64 percent thinks markets better solve problems than government, and 63 percent favor smaller government providing fewer services,” reported Reason. “In contrast, among those who think all kids should get a trophy, a plurality (49%) have an unfavorable view of capitalism, 50 percent thinks a strong government better solves problems than the free market, and 54 percent favor larger government providing more services.”

In addition, those who have achieved a higher level of education and/or income were more likely to oppose rewarding mere participation. “For instance, a majority (55%) of those making less than $30,000 a year want all kids to get trophies and 42 percent want only the winning players to receive them,” the reports states. “In contrast, among those making $90,000 a year or more, 72 percent want only the winner to receive trophies, while 26 percent favor participation trophies.”

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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