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Fewer Americans Plan to Watch Olympics Than in Past

Fewer Americans Plan to Watch Olympics Than in Past

Story Highlights

  • 39% plan to watch at least a fair amount, lower than in past years
  • Two in 10 of those intending to watch will do so online
  • Majority of Americans aged 65 and older plan to watch the Olympics

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A majority of Americans (61%) say they don't plan on following coverage of the Winter Olympics that begin this week much or at all, while about four in 10 (39%) say they plan to watch at least a fair amount of the games. Interest in the 2018 Olympic Games is lower than it was in three previous Winter Games stretching back to the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, when 58% said they planned to watch Olympic coverage.

How much of the Winter Olympic Games do you intend to watch?

Gallup asked Americans about their intention to watch the Olympics in a Jan. 29-Feb. 4 survey, ahead of the Winter Games that kick off this week in South Korea. Gallup asked the same question in advance of the 2002, 2006, and 2014 Winter Olympics, but not in 2010. A slight majority intended to watch in advance of the 2006 Olympics held in Turin, Italy, while less than half planned to watch prior to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

On average, Americans have shown less interest in watching the Winter Games than in the Summer Games, but their interest in the Summer Games has dropped off as well. In 2016, Americans' intentions to watch the Summer Olympics fell below the majority level for the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 2000.

As in the past, older Americans currently show more interest in watching Olympics coverage than younger Americans do. A majority of adults 65 and older (54%) say they will be watching the games, compared with 31% of 18- to 29-year-olds. Women, who have historically been avid Olympics fans (50% in 2014 intended to watch the Winter Games), are less engaged this year (41% plan to watch) but remain more interested than men.

How much of the Winter Olympic Games do you intend to watch?
Great deal/Fair amount
All adults 39
Men 35
Women 41
18 to 29 31
30 to 49 30
50 to 64 44
65+ 54
Gallup, Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2018

TV Still Dominates as Olympic Watchers' Viewing Platform of Choice

The majority (80%) of those who plan to watch the Olympics say they will do so "only" (50%) or "mostly" (30%) on television. Twenty percent of Americans plan to do at least half of their watching on the internet, including 12% who will watch equally on TV and online, and 8% who will do so "only" or "mostly" online. All Olympic events will be livestreamed.

Nearly all older adults (97%) and a large majority of women (84%) will rely at least mostly on television for their coverage. One-quarter of young adults aged 18 to 29 intend to watch the Olympics only or mostly online -- the largest subgroup who says it will do so.


Americans' interest in the Winter Olympics continues to decline as a majority do not intend to watch them much or at all this year. High interest in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games may have reflected that the games were in the U.S., but interest was also higher in the Turin and Sochi games than in this year's games in South Korea.

Older adults remain the most loyal Olympic viewers. Although Olympic athletes are young themselves, young adults nationally are not terribly interested in watching them compete. This could be in part chalked up to the viewing habits and lifestyles of young adults in American society today.

The time difference between the U.S. and South Korea may also be causing projections of lower self-viewership because the live events will take place at odd hours in the U.S. The results of many competitions will be revealed in media sources before they are broadcast on U.S. television.

Gone are the days when Americans had to wait for television coverage to highlight the events in which they were particularly interested, because every event is now accessible on the internet. Yet, despite the rise in technological advances that make live and recorded viewing of all Olympic events possible, Americans will still be watching on TV (where the events are often pre-recorded and edited to show highlights) rather than via livestreaming on a computer, tablet or smartphone.

While it might make sense that having so many opportunities to watch the Olympics would result in increased viewership, Americans' interest in watching live television -- including traditional special events such as the Super Bowl and awards shows like the Oscars -- has been declining in recent years. The Olympics may simply be another casualty of that trend.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2018, on the Gallup U.S. Poll, with a random sample of 2,228 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, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Poll works.

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