June 16, 2014

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


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.


  1. John Holst3 years ago

    I have now spent more time reading pew research articles about the World Cup than the actual World Cup itself.

  2. Muthyavan.3 years ago

    Fifia 14 will be more thrilling than the previous world matches. Final matches will be compete surprises with unexpected winners.

  3. @politiquestions3 years ago

    I meant to include the recent apparent use of live bullets, which i had to find out about on social media, and the persistent nature of dissenters’ unfulfilled economic demands, in the last comment. point being that FIFA markets itself as a nonprofit supposedly doing good, and there’s little of the necessary context given for viewers to make up our own minds while it quietly demands broad tax freedom and provokes the govt to amass gigantic police forces and use brutal violence to suppress people who it could have helped before, all for international image. my opinion is probably clear by now but i hope you see my point.

  4. @politiquestions3 years ago

    Pew, IMHO Patrick Mullen’s reply illustrates how important it is to include informatiom about the brutal government crackdown on opposition to the World Cup and economic protests which Brazilians find related en masse. Point 5 mentions the country’s image but that’s pretty vague- the image of the govt? white Brazilians? abled? cis? college students? the poor? the rich? impossible AFAICT for an informed observer to believe such a massive and diverse country had one shared perspective- and it doesn’t explicitly address the biggest problems with the event for Brazilian dissenters. Not all of us may agree with them but we have to make these decisions knowing the context IMO.

    You might say “that’s not a TV/media issue” but i would fervently disagree in that case. the fact that brutal police militarization including raiding favelas for people who did nothing illegal except live in makeshift housing due to their economic situation is a TV/media issue when it’s covered only in scant fashion in most venues and the Cup is discussed and portrayed on sports channels as if totally welcome in Brazil, i.e. Univision substituting a computer animation of a smiling brown-skinned boy who represents the country being exuberant about the games. That this is the dominant image and needs to go largely unspoken (or presented as if utterly obvious) say a lot about viewers and the nature of our demand IMO. Since Brazilians have not called for a boycott, it’s especially important for others to understand the context it is being played in, knowledge which is, AIUI, obscured on ESPN as on Univision and here.

    Any thoughts/reaction from Michael or the organization?

    1. Michael Lipka3 years ago

      Thanks for your comment. This post was meant to look at the global audience for the World Cup. We also recently surveyed Brazilians on a variety of questions, and you can read a detailed report about the findings here: pewglobal.org/2014/06/03/brazili…

      In addition, surveys in many other countries asked about views of Brazil:

      Michael Lipka

  5. Manisha Bomzan3 years ago

    España siente decepcionado a sus fans en el mundial.

  6. patrick mullen3 years ago

    wait, elections better than football ???!!!!!!!!

    CRA Z!!!!!!!!

    1. jj3 years ago

      España decepcionó al mundo, merecen algum tipo de castigo por su pesima actuacion.

  7. patrick mullen3 years ago

    thanks alot, i am doing a school report on this stuff and your report really helped me out!!!

    i bet i will be the only person in my class with this much info!

    thanks again1