In a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, 839 voters in North Carolina were asked to identify their political affiliations, as well as their personal choice between the Duke Blue Devils and UNC Tar Heels. Though the methodology of the poll leaves much to be desired, the results suggest that Trump voters marginally prefer Duke basketball over UNC basketball, with Clinton voters displaying an opposite trend—supporting UNC over Duke by a wide margin. Given Duke’s image as a supposedly “liberal” university, the results of the poll may come across as someone shocking to the average Duke student. Nonetheless, given the image of Duke as an elite institution, along with the role of sports as a greater unifier within American culture, the dual image of a Trump voter/Cameron Crazie perhaps is not altogether surprising.
Trump voters may be motivated partly by a sense of elitism in that Duke is a top-tier university whose basketball program is a world-class program. The media stereotype that most Trump voters represent disgruntled working-class people in the Rust Belt has been largely disproven, as many of his 2016 electoral supporters in fact hailed from families of the upper middle-class. Overall, Trump in 2016 also secured a large percentage of the populist voter group who are economically liberal but socially conservative. Consequently, it is perhaps not too surprising that a good number of residents in North Carolina—which voted Republican in the 2016 election—see in Duke some of the values and traits trumpeted by the current administration: privately run, heavily endowed (no pun intended), and highly selective.
Duke basketball, much like sports in general, serves as a unifier of people. People from a myriad of backgrounds come together to show a visceral solidarity for their team to secure victory on game day. Cameron Indoor Stadium is consistently packed to the brim with thousands of people, each professing a diverse set of political beliefs. On the surface, the unity that is expressed is to be commended and should remind all of us that we are more than our identities. In the spirit of the Duke experience, we possess the ability to function as a larger organism that is capable of accomplishing more than what we could do on our own. Unfortunately, people have taken this cohesion as license to dismiss the realm of politics should it conflict with their Sunday night football and related sports—a phenomenon that we have commented on in the past. Last year, NFL fans expressed great displeasure with Colin Kapernick’s kneeling during the National Anthem, along with similar actions by other sports figures. Likewise, politics can somehow inexplicably find its way into Cameron—as exemplified by the recent poll.
Politics and sports function in tandem. To assert that anyone should leave politics out of the discussion engages in a distorted reality in which entertainment is absent of any real-life influences and social consequences. Duke students should consider this when attending their next basketball game. Their neighbors have views that may conflict with their own, yet sports allow each one to function in spite of their differences. The next time you go to Cameron, look at the person sitting next to you—that person sporting a Laettner jersey might also be a Trump fan.
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