WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans who say they are watching the Olympics "a lot" are most likely to want the most popular events televised both live during the day as they happen and on tape delay in the evening. Seven in 10 (71%) of these Americans want the most popular events televised live and on tape delay, as do a majority (57%) of those who are watching a little of the games and 43% of those who aren't watching at all.
The results are from a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Aug. 4-5, 2012, in the midst of the 2012 Olympic Games in London and significant media coverage and online chatter about NBC Universal's coverage of the games. The Twitter hashtag #NBCFail has been alight with the tweets of those criticizing NBC's decision to televise the most popular events solely in the evening, many hours after they have been broadcast live worldwide and the results widely reported. Some have defended NBC's decision, arguing that NBC is pleasing its advertisers with record-high ratings in prime time and that the comments on Twitter do not represent the entire nation's views.
The poll finds that the majority of Americans nationwide (59%) do want both live and taped television coverage of the most popular events -- with relatively few Americans saying they would prefer coverage that is solely live (17%) or solely tape delay (12%). The last figure suggests there is widespread dissatisfaction with NBC's decision to televise the most popular events solely on tape delay in the evening. It should be noted, however, that the question asked only about television broadcasts and thus does not include Americans' views about the live streaming options NBC offers online.
While it may not be surprising that those who are watching a lot of the games are the most likely to want more coverage, the data reveal the nuances implicit in the debate over whether NBC's coverage should be aimed at pleasing the public or advertisers and, in turn, the network.
The poll suggests NBC's decision does make good business sense in terms of advertisers' ability to reach sought-after affluent consumers. Higher-income, more-educated, and married Americans are the most likely among key subgroups to say they are watching a lot of the games on television -- and significantly more likely than Americans overall.
At the same time, higher-income and more-educated Americans are also the most likely to say they want both live and taped television coverage of the most popular events, suggesting these groups might watch even more Olympics -- and more ads -- if there were live coverage of the most popular events. Conversely, Americans with a high school education or less are both the least likely to be watching a lot of the games and the most likely to express a preference for solely live coverage.
Americans who are employed for pay are no more likely to be watching a lot of the games than those who are not employed for pay -- but are far more likely to want both live and taped coverage. This suggests NBC could potentially reach more employed Americans if it were to offer live coverage of the most popular events.
It also worth noting that 18- to 29-year-olds are among the least likely to say they are watching a lot of the games on television. It is possible that this tech-savvy demographic group is taking advantage of NBC's live online streaming. At the same time, they still would prefer both live and taped coverage of the most popular events to a degree similar to that of Americans nationwide.
Majority of Americans Aren't Avoiding or Seeking Olympics Results
Americans aren't going out of their way to adjust their news consumption in response to the Olympics coverage. The majority (52%) say they are not making a special effort to avoid finding out the results of the events before they are televised in prime time or making a special effort to find out the results as soon as they can. However, Americans who are watching a lot of the Olympics are significantly more likely than those who are watching a little to make both of these efforts.
These data may help explain why so many Americans prefer the live and taped broadcast option -- so they can watch live broadcasts if and when they are able, and watch the taped evening broadcasts when that is more convenient.
The USA Today/Gallup poll makes clear that Americans as a whole would prefer that NBC air both live and taped coverage of the most popular Olympics events -- and that most are not satisfied with the television coverage that is available. At the same time, the data reveal the current coverage is reaching a large majority of Americans, with 40% saying they are watching a lot of the games and another 38% saying they are watching a little, and that the majority of Americans aren't making a special effort to either get or avoid Olympics results. Further, the finding that higher-income and more-educated Americans are among the most likely to be watching a lot of the games suggest advertisers will have plenty to be pleased about.
Still, the question remains whether more Americans would be watching more of the Olympics -- and, in turn, more ads -- if the most popular events were broadcast live. The fact that the majority of Americans, whether they are watching the games or not, express a preference for both live and taped coverage, suggests it is certainly possible.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted August 4-5, 2012 on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,082 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.