AmeriCorps Project: Immigrants, Athletes, and Civic Engagement

In 2022, the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) at George Mason University was awarded a research grant from AmeriCorps to explore if online or in-person engagement and contact with immigrant athletes fosters more positive attitudes towards immigrants off the playing field. 

This study takes place over the course of three years. In the first year, we conducted a web-based survey with over 3,400 individuals across seven metropolitan areas (i.e. Washington, D.C/Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia, San Jose, Seattle) in the United States in order to understand their attitudes about immigrants and immigration, as well as their level of sports engagement and participation, as well as social media usage. Some major findings include:

  • Respondents were more likely to perceive immigration to be a problem nationally and were less likely to perceive immigration to be a problem locally.
  • The more frequent interaction individuals have with immigrants, the more likely they are to have positive friendly contact with immigrants and the less likely they are to see immigration to be less of a problem at the national level.
  • Respondents who are sports fans reported more positive friendly interactions with immigrants compared to respondents who are not sport fans.
  • The more sport oriented a respondent is, the more frequent and positive interaction individuals have with immigrants.
  • Respondents' interaction with immigrants varied by their political leaning, political affiliation, and primary news consumption.

In the second year of the study, we are working with personnel across sports teams at the professional, minor, amateur, club, and collegiate levels within four select metro areas (i.e. Washington, D.C/Baltimore, Miami, Detroit, and Seattle) to develop social media and potentially in-person campaigns to highlight the diversity of their team; particularly regarding foreign-born or immigrant players or coaches. It is the hope that through this "para-contact" it will contribute to more positive attitudes towards immigrants.

A Conversation with the D.C. DIVAS

On January 31, 2024, the IIR hosted a conversation with current and former native-born and foreign-born players on the D.C. DIVAS. The D.C. DIVAS are one of ten charter franchises in the National Women's Football Association (NWFA). Over the last two decades, the D.C. DIVAS have won three National Championships and compiled more victories than any other franchise in the history of the sport. But the D.C. DIVAS are about more than sports. Their mission “… is to level the playing field for girls and women in sports” and to inspire and empower the next generation of athletes.

Lastly, in the third year, we will conduct surveys in the seven metropolitan areas to assess the impact of the social media and/or in-person campaigns on the fan base.  

Click here to read the results from Year 1.

AmeriCorps Project: Immigrants, Athletes, and Civic Engagement Image