Sochi Olympics Not Winning Over Americans, Poll Says


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According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 4 of every 10 Americans have unfavorable impressions of the upcoming Winter Olympiad in Sochi. Half of respondents had a favorable impression and 10 percent didn’t care either way. In comparison, the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics saw 72 percent approval and only 16 percent unfavorable impressions.

This lukewarm reception likely stems from a mishmash of sources, from the mindboggling price tag (over $50 billion), concerns over security, and President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay remarks and legislation.

The Washington Post-ABC poll numbers are backed up by a Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday that showed a plurality of Americans believing that holding the Olympics in Russia was a “bad decision.” Respondents in that poll overwhelmingly cited security concerns.

Fifty-three percent have favorable views on Russia’s anti-terrorism efforts, a tepid but generally positive assessment is strongly connected to how the games are viewed overall. Those who view Russia’s efforts on terrorism favorably likewise tend to see the games favorably by a 68 to 25 percent margin; those who have unfavorable impressions invert those figures, with 68 percent unfavorable to 29 percent favorable.

American liberals are least enthusiastic—with only 44 percent favorable impressions—likely due to a series of rows over gay rights. Moderates weighed in at 57 percent and conservatives at 51. So, essentially, we’ve finally found a salve for American partisan bickering—everybody can dislike the Olympics at roughly the same proportion.

But while Sochi lags well behind London in American hearts and minds, pollsters provided a frame of reference that takes out some of the sting. While Americans are collectively “meh”ing over Sochi, they gave President Putin a far worse evaluation at only 27 percent favorable impressions. And who do we hate even more than Putin? Tonya Harding, clinging to relevance in 2014.

Here’s a sampling of Olympic-related poll numbers over the past 20 years:

    Olympic swimming (2012) 79% favorable, 16% unfavorable
    London Olympics (2012) 72% favorable, 16% unfavorable
    Nancy Kerrigan (1994) 54% favorable, 38% unfavorable
    Sochi Olympics (2014) 50% favorable, 40% unfavorable
    Dressage (2012) 47% favorable, 27% unfavorable
    Vladimir Putin (2014) 27% favorable, 58% unfavorable
    Tonya Harding (1994) 10% favorable, 78% unfavorable

So apparently Americans disliked Tonya Harding as much as they liked Ryan Lochte. Go figure.

Image via Wikimedia Commons