Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

57 Percent of Americans Say Only Kids Who Win Should Get Trophies


The latest Reason-Rupe poll finds that when it comes to kids and their trophies, 57 percent of Americans think only the winning players should receive them. Another 40 percent say all kids on a sport team should receive a trophy for their participation.

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.

The competitive desire for winners to be rewarded correlates with fiscal conservatism. 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. 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.

Support for participation trophies declines with income, education and age. 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. 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.

Those with high school degrees or less are divided 49 to 48 in favor of participation trophies. But 67 percent of college graduates support only winners getting trophies, while 29 percent want all kids to get one.

Among 18-24 year olds, 51 percent say all kids should get a trophy, but this declines to 43 percent among 25-34 year olds, 39 percent among 35-54 year olds, and 29 percent among seniors.

Gender and race/ethnic differences also emerge when it comes to trophy allocation. Women are slightly more likely then men (44 to 35 percent) to say all kids should get a trophy. However, more significant differences emerge among race/ethnic groups. Fully 63 percent of Caucasians say only the winning players should get trophies, while 34 percent say all kids. Conversely, 56 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics say all kids should get a trophy, while 42 percent say only the winners.

UPDATE: New chart added on trophy preferences and views on size of government, markets, and capitalism.

The Reason-Rupe national telephone poll, executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, conducted live interviews with 1000 adults on cell phones (500) and landlines (500) August 6-10, 2014. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.7%. Full poll results can be found here. including poll toplines (pdf)  and crosstabs (xls).

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  1. The trophy thing really riles people up.
    Also, the question doesn’t even mention the ages of the kids playing, which makes a huge difference.

    Is the kid 7? Give them all a trophy. You are trying to teach them at that age that participation is valuable, and they should keep showing up and working at it.

    Is the kid 15? Different story.

  2. I am a Football Coach for 7-8 yr olds and I do not believe that everyone should get a Trophy just for participating, only the top 3 teams should get a Trophy this creates better competition because the kids want to earn their Trophy. This PC crap has to stop it is turning our society into a bunch of pansies..

  3. When it was my turn to be in charge of the Pinewood Derby I was discussing with someone my desire to use the same certificate idea the previous chair had used. Both my kids spoke up and said that they didn’t value the certificates – since everyone got one. Even though each one was different the boys knew it wasn’t the least bit merit based.

  4. For some lower-income people I know, their support for everyone getting a trophy is based on an instinctive clutching for resources that permeates every fiber of their being. Think about it, living hand-to-mouth means you dont pass up an opportunity for any advantage, and if all you have to do is say ‘yeah, give everyone a trophy’ in order to get a trophy, you’ll do it.

    Besides that, people whose tenuous existence is dependent on a rabid materialism get kind of defensive about other people getting things they don’t get. The practical necessity of survival trumps the symbolic logic of a trophy and makes them lay claim to whatever they can. Unfortunately, this itself is symbolic of the short-sightedness which frequently perpetuates their problems.

    This I can understand. But the well-to-do self-esteem-based everyones-a-winners elude my imagination. Is there really anyone like that?

  5. Kids who play sports should not get trophies, period.

    1. I’m with you. They should be paid.

      1. Sorry. Read the article. I thought this was about college football.

        1. I believe every person playing college football is an adult.

    2. Do you get paid for the work you do? What if you do extraordinarily good work for a period, do you get a bonus? Maybe you would enjoy work more if you didn’t get paid, so tell the boss you will, from now on, work for just the heck of it.

  6. I don’t think giving some sort of keepsake to commemorate participation is out of line, though I can see where a trophy seems a little excessive. I think they’re more closely associated with actual achievement. I say give the winners/achievers trophies, on top of everyone getting some sort of lesser medal, plaque, or certificate.

    1. Give them a participant ribbon.

      Just like we give to war vets.

    2. I always thought my team ballcaps / jerseys were my participation keepsakes…

    3. Trophies, earned, are prized and usuanlly kept. I still have some I earned in high school. Participation trophies, certificates, plaques, etc. are thrown in a drawer then into the trash within two years of being issued. Don’t tell me you still have all of yours. Those types of rewards aren’t for kids. They are for parents who harbor unrealistic dreams of little Johnny or Sarah being a professional player in some sport.

  7. Kids need to learn to cope with losing and failure at a young age. We are not all masters of everything and that is okay.

    Maybe they could skip the sports altogether, though, and read a book, work on a project or make money somehow instead. It’s never too soon to have some participation in the responsibilities of the adult world.

    P.S. What do millennials think about trophies?

    1. Interesting that you should ask what millenials think about trophies, as this article is currently trending on the front page of reddit with over 2500 comments —…..s_who_win/

      while the website is of course not only exclusive to millenials, it is a pretty good place to get an idea of how the mainstream millennial demographic feel on the issues (and pretty much anything else)

  8. I grew up a jock. A sore losing one at that. I hate losing. Fucking hate it. Sports are about results and winning. Period. Fuck all this shit about ‘we all win.’ No we don’t. There are winners and losers.

    Now. That being said, there’s nothing wrong in losing. The point people can’t seem to wrap their heads around – and this is mostly among people who don’t play sports and are in the 43% weenie group – is that it’s the experience of being part of a team, learning to respect your coaches and opponents and the game you participate in, to learn to handle and manage your mental strength at different points of a game or match, and finally the spirit of competition; of giving it all you’ve got is what you’re supposed to come away with. These are all the intangibles that help prepare you for life. Coping with victory and defeat is just another aspect of competition. The sooner kids learn this, the better.

    But it seems all these nannies want to defer or even shield their snowflakes from this reality. Sports is not a god damn hobby. It’s a COMPETITION.

    You think I would have given a shit if they gave me a ribbon after pouring my guts, sweat and sometimes blood? No. My satisfaction was playing hard and earning the respect of my team mates and opponents alike.

    Then I’d eagerly wait until the next time to even the score.

  9. 100% of me could care less who gives out trophies to whom. I believe I even used the proper subject and object in the sentence above. Where is my trophy?

  10. Whether all participants should get trophies depends upon the nature of the competition. Special Olympics, for example , may find it appropriate to award all with a trophy.

  11. They didn’t have my view as an option: fuck trophies. At least for kids. Once you start building your resume as an athlete I think that’s fine, with the gold medals, MVPs and so forth, but I’m assuming this is more like community organized sports I played before high school.

    The reason, although I admittedly have no research to back me, is that kids should learn to enjoy competition for its own sake. I always felt that valuing the reward more than the competition led to poor sportsmanship and an unhealthy view of how and why we play games. I know too many people who have stopped playing sports as they get older if they know they’re not going to win, because that’s really all they value.

  12. Dude that makes no sense at all man.

  13. Getting a trophy after having lost… even at the age of 5, I would have thought it condescending even if I couldn’t have put words to it.

  14. There’s a huge gap between “only winners should get trophies” and “all kids should get trophies” which Reason-Rupe simply ignores in this poll. Most people will of course trend towards “only winners”.

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  17. Nothing brands a kid a loser quicker than giving him some kind award for losing. You’re a loser kid. Here’s a trophy. Good grief.

    I coached a team that was 0-16 one year in kid’s baseball. They were good honest losses. We were terrible and everyone knew it. If our team had gotten a trophy that year it would have insulted every kid in that league who actually earned one. Our kids understood and accepted it. We watched the good teams get rewarded and told ourselves we could be just as good or better with hard work. In just two years we were 17-1 and on the top. Everyone knew we were the best and we got the big trophy to prove it. That trophy was won by those kids with hard work and a lots of effort. They were proud. Their parents were proud. Their coaches were proud. And they WON respect of everyone in the league. I bet that 20 years later that those trophies are proudly displayed in every one of those kid’s house. It is in mine. Heck, I want to be buried with that trophy. LOL All the ‘participation’ trophies some well-being fool passed out to my teams that did not win went in the trash some time ago.

  18. And every NFL team should get Superbowl rings at the end of the season (except of course any team with a name deemed too offensive to be published in a Washington Post editorial).

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