February 4, 2014

Public Skeptical of Decision to Hold Olympic Games in Russia

Terrorism and Security Drive Concerns

Security Concerns Cited by Most Who Think It Was a ‘Bad Decision’ to Hold Winter Games in RussiaSurvey Report

Security Concerns Cited by Most Who Think It Was a ‘Bad Decision’ to Hold Winter Games in RussiaWith the 2014 Winter Olympics approaching, more say it was a bad decision (44%) than a good decision (32%) to hold the games in Russia. About one-in-four (24%) say they don’t know.

Concerns about terrorism and safety are foremost among those who think it was a bad decision to hold the Olympics in Russia. In an open-ended question, 62% of those who say it was a bad decision to hold the Winter Olympics in Russia mention terrorism or general security in Sochi as a reason they feel this way.

Most Plan to Watch At Least Some of the Sochi OlympicsFar fewer (5%) mention the Russian government or President Vladimir Putin as reasons why it was a bad decision to hold the games there, while 4% say Russia’s treatment of gays and lesbians make the country a bad choice to host the games.

Most adults are planning to watch either “a lot” (18%) or some (37%) of the Olympics, according to the new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 2 among 1,003 adults. About one-in-four adults (26%) say they plan to watch “very little” and 19% say they will not watch at all. Nearly one-in-four of those 50 and older (23%) plan to watch a lot, compared with 14% of those younger than 50.

Young adults stand out in their support of Russia’s hosting of the Olympics. Among adults ages 18-29, about twice as many say it was a “good decision” as a “bad decision” to hold the Winter Olympics in Russia – 49% vs. 25%. By contrast, a 55% majority of adults 50 and older say it was a bad decision, compared with about one-in-four (24%) saying it was a good decision. Among adults ages 30-49, 42% say it was a bad decision and 33% say it was a good decision.

Across all demographic groups, concerns about terrorism and safety are dominant among those who think it was a bad decision to hold the Olympics in Russia. Seven-in-ten Republicans (70%) and 63% of Democrats who said it was a bad decision cite concerns about security. And 7% of Democrats and 2% of Republicans mention Russia’s policies toward gays and lesbians as a reason it was a bad decision.

In 2008, opinions about hosting the Summer Olympics in China changed over time and became more positive as the games began. In a survey four months before the event, the public was evenly divided about whether it was a good idea to hold the Summer Olympics in China (41% good, 43% bad). But during the games’ opening weekend, more viewed the decision to hold the games in China as good than bad (52% good, 31% bad).

The Week’s News

Winter Weather Draws News InterestOne-in-five (20%) closely followed the State of the Union last week, down from 26% last year and the lowest news interest during Obama’s tenure. (By comparison, 24% of the public followed George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address to start his sixth year in office.) Twice as many Democrats (33%) as Republicans (16%) and independents (15%) followed Obama’s speech closely.

Cold winter weather in much of the country was the most f0llowed news story of the week, with nearly four-in-ten (38%) saying they paid very close attention. People living in the South (45%), the Northeast and the Midwest (42% each) were much more likely than those in the West (21%) to closely follow news about the cold weather.

About three-in-ten (29%) closely followed news about the economy last week. The Super Bowl was closely followed by 23%, which is roughly equal to interest in past years. An additional 17% closely followed debate over immigration policy in the U.S., while about one-in-ten (9%) paid close attention to preparations for the Olympics.