Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Public Skeptical of Decision to Hold Olympic Games in Russia

Terrorism and Security Drive Concerns

Survey Report

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

With 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 Olympics

Far 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 Interest

One-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.

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