Majority of Americans Plan to Watch Winter Olympics

by Mark Gillespie

Figure skating likely to be most popular with female viewers

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- When the Olympic Flame is lit in Torino, Italy, the site of the 20th Olympic Winter Games, the world will be watching. However, in America, that world is likely to be disproportionately made up of women, older Americans, and suburbanites, according to a Gallup survey conducted Jan. 9-12. And that's just what NBC, the network televising the Olympics in the United States, is hoping for. The proof: NBC plans a special hour of coverage each night focusing exclusively on figure skating, the one sport that a majority (53%) of women indicated they were fans of in a December 2004 Gallup survey.

Slightly more than half (53%) of American adults plan to watch either a "great deal" or "fair amount" of the Winter Olympics. Interestingly, this is one of the few sporting events where Gallup has measured roughly equal interest among women and among men. Fifty-four percent of men plan to watch significant amounts of the Olympics coverage, as do 52% of women. By way of comparison, a Jan. 20-22 Gallup survey found 76% of men planned to watch the Super Bowl, compared to 54% of women.

Gallup data also show different levels of interest depending on race, income, and where one lives. Just 44% of non-whites plan to watch a great deal or fair amount of the Olympics, compared to 56% of whites. Three out of five people (60%) earning more than $75,000 annually plan to watch a great deal or fair amount, compared to 51% of those earning between $30,000 and $75,000 and 48% of those earning less than $30,000. Finally, 56% of both urban and suburban residents plan to watch at least a fair amount, compared to 41% of rural residents.

One interesting fact that cannot be easily explained: while sports viewership is traditionally higher among younger people, sixty-five percent of those 65 and older plan to watch at least a fair amount of the Winter Olympics. This is significantly higher than all other age groups. One possible explanation could be that people in this age group tend to be retired, and thus will have the opportunity to watch the extensive daytime coverage on NBC and its associated cable networks.

Interest Down Slightly From 2002 Winter Games

The Jan. 9-12 poll shows that overall, 53% of Americans plan to watch at least a fair amount of the 2006 Winter Olympics. This compares with 58% who expressed the same level of interest in the 2002 Winter Olympics during a Feb. 4-6, 2002 Gallup survey. There may be a logical explanation for this slight drop in interest: the 2002 Games were held in Salt Lake City, and the intense amount of publicity meant Americans had a higher level of awareness about that year's Olympics as a result. Additionally, the interest question in 2002 was asked just two days before the games began; this year the question was asked a month before the beginning of the games.

In the past, Americans have been far more interested in the Summer Olympics as a rule. While the 53% expressing plans to watch a significant amount of this year's Winter Olympics is consistent with that shown in the Gallup survey before the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, it does represent a slightly lower level of interest from the 2000 Sydney Games and the 2004 Athens Games (59% for both). More Americans today (17%) say they do not plan to watch any of this year's coverage at all than did so in 2000 or 2004 (12% for both).

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, aged 18 years and older, conducted Jan. 9-12, 2006. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

25. Thinking for a moment about the Winter Olympic Games beginning in February in Torino, Italy, how much of the Winter Olympics do you intend to watch -- a great deal, a fair amount, not much, or none at all?

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not
much

None
at all

No
opinion

2006 Jan 9-12

17%

36

30

17

*

* = Less than 0.5%

Trend for Comparison: Winter Olympics

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not
much

None
at all

No
opinion

2002 Feb 4-6

20%

38

32

10

*

* = Less than 0.5%

Trend for Comparison: Summer Olympics

Great
deal

Fair
amount

Not
much

None
at all

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Aug 9-11 ^

14

45

29

12

*

2000 Sep 11-13

17

42

28

12

1

^ Asked of a half sample

* = Less than 0.5%

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