June 16, 2014

5 facts about the World Cup – and the people who are watching

FT_14.06.12_WorldCupStadiumPhoto

Aside from the Olympics, there are few events that garner as much global coverage as the World Cup.

Of all the numbers associated with the event – 32 teams, 64 matches, 736 players, each team’s odds of winning – some of the biggest (with the exception of the World Cup’s reported $11.5 billion price tag) are the numbers of people who will be watching.

Here are five facts about World Cup viewership in the United States and around the world:

1About 3.2 billion people around the world (roughly 46% of the global population) watched at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on TV in their homes, according to a report produced for FIFA by the British firm KantarSport. This is slightly lower than the number of people who reportedly saw at least a minute of the 2012 London Olympics (3.6 billion), according to a report produced for the International Olympic Committee. Nearly 1 billion people (909.6 million) tuned in for at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup final, in which Spain defeated the Netherlands, a similar viewership number to the London Olympics’ opening ceremonies.

2In the United States, 94.5 million people (about 31% of the population) watched at least 20 consecutive minutes of the last World Cup, an increase of 19% over the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Compared to the U.S., World Cup host Brazil is far more interested in soccer, with 80% of the population watching at least 20 minutes of the matches in 2010.

3A similar share of Americans (28%) said they plan to watch World Cup games this summer, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News survey, which also found that more Americans called soccer “a big bore” (28%) than said it is “exciting” (19%).

4In a Pew Research survey conducted in January, 22% of Americans said they were “especially looking forward to” the World Cup, nearly the same share as when we asked about the 2010 World Cup in January of that year (23%). No other event mentioned in the 2014 survey found fewer people anticipating the event; more than twice as many people (51%) said they were looking forward to this fall’s midterm elections.

5The world will be watching Brazil – both for this summer’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics – but Brazilians are skeptical about whether the world will see Brazil in a positive light. About a third (35%) of Brazilians said the World Cup will help their country’s international image, while roughly four-in-ten (39%) said it will hurt Brazil’s image, according to a survey we conducted in April.

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.