7/23: London Olympic Games Spur Sense of Pride in Many Americans

Attention will be “across the pond” on Friday for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.  80% of adults nationally say they will follow, at least, some of the Olympic Games.  This includes 19% who plan to check out a great deal of them, 23% who think they will follow a good amount of the events, and 38% who believe they will follow them a little bit.  One in five — 20% — does not plan to check out any of the events.

Click Here for Complete July 23, 2012 USA Poll Release and Tables

Looking at age, those under 30 — 74% — are the least likely to watch, at least, a portion of the Olympics.  This compares with 81% of Americans 30 to 44, 80% of residents 45 to 59, and 84% of those 60 and older.

And, half of Americans are feeling a sense of healthy competition and pride.  50% of adults nationally say it’s more interesting to see if U.S. athletes win the most medals.  43%, however, think it’s more interesting to witness records being set regardless of which country the athlete represents.  Seven percent are unsure.

Half of Americans under 30 years of age — 50% — are more interested in having records set while 50% of those 30 to 44, 53% of residents 45 to 59, and 54% of those 60 and older are more engaged in the number of medals the nation collects.

Looking at gender, a majority of women — 52% — are interested in the number of medals the U.S. wins, and 41% want to see new records achieved.  Men divide.  49% are rooting for the U.S.A. to bring home the gold, but 45% are more focused on the records set.

This Marist Poll has been done in conjunction with The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.

“When it comes to nationalism versus records, nationalism still wins,” says Dr. Keith Strudler, Director of The Marist College Center for Sports Communication.  “But, records are still important to many Olympic viewers.  That’s why both are stressed during Olympic coverage by U.S. media, and you’ll see select superstar athletes from other countries on top of the normal American fare.”

When it comes to the nation’s most fierce competitor, 41% of adults nationally believe China will be America’s strongest challenger.  15% think Russia will be while 8% say Canada will be the country’s toughest rival.  Great Britain and Australia each receive 7%.  21% are unsure.

Table: Watch the 2012 Summer Olympics

Table: U.S. Medals or New Olympic Records

Table: America’s Strongest Competitor for the 2012 Summer Olympics

Gymnastics Takes Gold in Popularity

Three in ten watchers of the Olympics — 30% — say they are most looking forward to checking out the gymnastics events.  23% are pumped up about swimming while 18% are marking their calendars for the track and field events.  Basketball is the most anticipated event for 11% of watchers while soccer receives the attention of 10%.  Four percent of enthusiasts are psyched about diving while the same proportion — 4% — is looking forward to another event entirely.

There is a gender gap.  A plurality of women who plan to watch the Olympics — 44% — are anticipating the gymnastics competition.  However, there is little consensus among men.  28% are most looking forward to the track and field competition while 24% are getting ready for the swimming events.

Table: Summer Olympic Event Most Looking Forward to Watching

Phelps and Williams Expected to be High Profile Athletes

Half of Americans planning to watch the Olympics — 50% — say swimming sensation Michael Phelps will make the biggest male splash in London.  17% believe basketball phenom LeBron James will be the biggest male star of the competition while 8% say Jamaican track star Usain Bolt deserves that title.  Five percent think swimmer Ryan Lochte will be the male talk of the Olympics while South African Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee runner, is expected by 1% to receive the most attention.  Nearly one in five — 19% — is unsure.

When it comes to the star female athlete of the 2012 Olympic Games, 43% believe tennis great Serena Williams will achieve that status.  Soccer’s Hope Solo comes in a distant second with 11% followed by track athlete Lolo Jones with 9%.  Seven percent expect gymnast Jordyn Wieber to be in the spotlight while 5% say the same about track’s Allyson Felix.  26% are unsure.

Table: Male Star of 2012 Summer Olympics

Table: Female Star of 2012 Summer Olympics

Tube Time or Online?  How Enthusiasts are Following the Games

How will those who plan to watch the Olympics get their fix?  61% expect to tune in via television only.  31% think they will add a little online viewing to their TV watching while just 5% say they will follow the Olympics mostly online with a little TV sprinkled into the mix.  Three percent will watch only online.

Not surprisingly, 79% of adults planning to watch the Olympic Games over the age of 60 say they will only view the events on TV.  60% of those 45 to 59 say the same.  49% of Olympics enthusiasts age 30 to 44, and the same proportion of those under 30 years old — 49% — report they will watch the events on TV only.  A notable 14% of Americans younger than 30 say they will solely follow the games online, and an additional 13% of this age group plan to view the games mostly online.

Table: How Americans Are Watching 2012 Summer Olympics

How the Survey Was Conducted

Nature of the Sample

About Keith Strudler, Ph.D.

Strudler, Ph.D., is the director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.  Dr. Strudler founded Marist’s popular concentration in sports communication in 2002, now one of the nation’s largest in the discipline.  He studies and teaches in the areas of sports media, sport and society, and sports reporting and information.  Dr. Strudler also writes weekly sports commentary for WAMC, an NPR radio station in Albany, NY.