A majority of Americans support prayer during public high school sporting events, compared with roughly a third who approve of professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem, according to a new survey.
The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted in September found more than 6 in 10 think a coach leading a team in prayer, a player leading a team in prayer, or a coach praying on the field without asking the team to join in should all be allowed at public high school sporting events.
The findings come months after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to allow a public high school football coach in Washington state to pray on the field after he was suspended for refusing to halt the practice.
A majority of those surveyed did not believe the ruling would result in other public school officials praying with students during school hours, while just under a third (30%) believe that religion holds too much influence on school curriculum.
Those who identified as “born again” Christians were more likely to support the ruling than non-born again Christians, according to the survey.
It turns out, when it comes to sports, nearly 1 in 5 Americans pray about the outcomes of high school, college or professional games. A third of parents of a school-aged child, meanwhile, pray about the outcome of their child’s sporting events.
The survey also found nearly 3 in 10 adults feel “God or prayer can play a role in determining which team wins a sporting event,” slightly more than a quarter who say that “superstitions or rituals” can affect which team wins a game.
More than half of born-again Protestants feel “God and prayer plays a role in determining which sports team will win” a game, compared with about a quarter of mainline Protestants and about a third of Catholics.
Born-again Protestants and Catholics were more likely to say they have prayed about the outcome of a high school or college sporting event compared with about 1 in 10 mainline Protestants and people without a religious affiliation.
But while the survey found few adults disapprove of professional athletes praying on the field or expressing their faith publicly, respondents held less favorable opinions toward professional sports players kneeling during the national anthem, with 30% approving of that form of protest and 37% disapproving.
When it comes to playing the national anthem and “God Bless America” at pro sporting events, more people are in favor of both.
Republicans are more likely than Democrats to favor “God bless America” (84% vs. 32%) and the national anthem (88% vs. 54%) playing before games.
In a decision released in June, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Bremerton School District discriminated against Coach Joe Kennedy when it prohibited him from praying on the field during practice.
Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the court’s opinion, being joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh.
“Kennedy prayed during a period when school employees were free to speak with a friend, call for a reservation at a restaurant, check email, or attend to other personal matters. He offered his prayers quietly while his students were otherwise occupied. Still, the Bremerton School District disciplined him anyway,” wrote Gorsuch.
The nationwide AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll was conducted September 9-12, using a probability-based panel at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,054 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.9 percentage points.