SAINT LEO, FL – A survey earlier this month from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( found that more than two-thirds of Americans plan to watch broadcasts of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, being held from Friday, August 5, through Sunday, August 21, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The institute’s online poll of 1,001 adults was conducted from June 10 through June 16, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

An impressive 69.2 percent said they plan to watch broadcasts of the 2016 Rio Olympics, as the games are more commonly called. Another 18.8 percent said they don’t plan to watch the games. Twelve percent were not sure if they would tune in to the broadcasts, which are airing on NBC, the Spanish-language partner Telemundo, and related cable networks in the NBCUniversal corporate family.

Men are slightly more apt than women to plan to watch, at 70.9 percent, compared to 67.7 percent. Among age groups, those 65 and older are the most committed to viewing, at 71.9 percent, exceeding by 4 percentage points the youngest grouping, ages 18 to 44.

Phil Hatlem, instructor of sport business at Saint Leo, said there is a reason for that little wrinkle in the demography. The viewing patterns of the older group were formed when the Olympics had much less competition from other sports events for viewers, and when the games could be watched only on television screens, not on tablets or phones.

The survey also asked those intending to watch which of the 28 sports they are most eager to see.

  • Well over one-half said they wanted to see swimming (69.7 percent) and gymnastics (63.7 percent).
  • The next most popular was basketball, at about one-third of respondents (34.6 percent).
  • About one-quarter of those answering wanted to see track and field (25.6 percent) and/or volleyball (25.5 percent).
  • Soccer, boxing, tennis, cycling, and golf were also of interest, in that order, attracting audience percentages ranging from around 18 percent down to around 11 percent.

NBC, in promotional releases, is promising viewers the most live broadcasts ever with this Olympiad. The timing may work well for viewers. The time zone in Rio is one hour ahead of the Eastern Time zone and so fairly compatible with the U.S. lifestyle.

Worries about Brazil

Because of the current concerns with the health risks posed by the Zika virus, which has been found present in Brazil, the institute asked respondents whether the games should remain in Rio, be moved, or be canceled. Results were split: 38.6 percent said the games should go forward as planned; 31.6 percent thought they should be moved to another nation; 21.1 percent were unsure, and 8.8 percent favored cancellation.

What has occurred since the survey has been careful consideration among some athletes of whether to compete in Rio or withdraw from the games. Contracting the Zika virus carries with it, at worst, the threats of neurological damage to adults, to fetuses, and possibly to future pregnancies. The disease can be transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito and through sexual contact with an infected male. Several high-profile male golfers have decided not to play, in addition to some other athletes.

Dr. Dené Williamson, assistant professor of sport business, noted that aquatic athletes may legitimately fear other health risks as well, given persistent reports of bacteria in the water at competition sites. Even sewage and garbage at competition sites for swimming and sailing have been a concern because of Brazil’s wastewater treatment infrastructure, ongoing pollution, and a lack of money to fix the problems.

Future Bids

When asked about the future, a combined total of 80.9 percent of respondents said they would strongly support or somewhat support the return of the Olympics to the United States in 2024.

However, just over one-quarter of respondents­­—28 percent—would be very willing or somewhat willing to pay additional taxes to help secure and fund the Olympics if the games were going to be held in or near their home city.

Talks about future Olympic bids, while exciting to many, are invariably connected with the local cost-versus-benefit question, noted Hatlem, who has studied such issues. Some wonder whether cities will recoup the money spent on mega-events and local improvements made for huge crowds, or whether after the games the local population may be left with little-used stadiums or other structures that are just too unwieldy for normal life. Hatlem points to the 2012 Olympics as an illustration of a happy outcome. “Despite spending much more than the original bid, London was still a financial success for the city and the country,” Hatlem said.

Williamson added that there has also been a trend in the development of Olympic sites to make them temporary, or adaptable. Seating, for instance, can be planned so that the number of spectator seats can be scaled back to make a “smaller, usable stadium” after the Olympics are over, she said. She said she will be interested to see how much Rio adopts this approach.

Respondents were fairly evenly split when they were asked if they think the international Olympic Committee’s bidding process for sites is fair or not. About one-third, or 34.1 percent, felt the process was very fair or somewhat fair. Almost the same amount, 32.5 percent, said the process is somewhat unfair or not fair at all. The remaining 33.5 percent were unsure.

Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text)
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text)

More About Our Research

METHODOLOGY: All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument, and the national poll has a plus or minus 3 percent margin of error.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 dollar deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and a capacity for innovation. Saint Leo provides access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.

The university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from across the country and more than 60 nations around the world. Saint Leo’s nearly 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from any location. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate.

Saint Leo University boasts nearly 80,000 alumni in all 50 states, Washington, DC, five U.S. territories, and 72 countries.