NEW YORK – Just over half of Americans surveyed plan to watch or follow the Winter Olympics, according to an Associated Press-GfK Poll, and one-third of respondents say they have only a little or no confidence about Russia's ability to safeguard safety at the Sochi Games that start this week.
The likely audience for the Olympics is on the older side, with 65 percent age 50 or over planning to follow the quadrennial event compared with 47 percent among younger adults, according to the survey, conducted from Jan. 17-21.
Few are deeply confident Russia can keep the games safe: 19 percent are extremely or very confident Russia will protect the Olympics from terrorist attacks, 46 percent are somewhat confident and 33 percent just a little or not at all confident.
Asked how they would follow the games, 86 percent who said they would follow plan to watch events on television, while 17 percent intend to view online streams. Thirty-five percent say they will read about the results online and 20 percent in newspapers.
There's a broad age gap, with one-third under age 40 planning to follow online streams and just 9 percent aiming to follow the Olympics in newspapers. Among senior citizens, 37 percent intend to read about the games in newspapers.
With the competition held in a time zone nine hours from the U.S. Eastern Standard Time, NBC's prime-time coverage will include replayed events, but few are concerned about spoilers. Sixty-eight percent of respondents say it won't matter if they know the results before broadcasts, and just 20 percent of those planning to watch will actively avoid learning of the results of events they care about prior to the telecasts.
While 61 percent of whites are interested in following the Olympics, the percentage among nonwhites dips to 43 percent. Sixty-nine percent from households with incomes of $100,000 or more plan to watch, with 26 percent in that group intending to avoid spoilers.
Figure skating is by far the most popular Winter Olympic sport, with 24 percent citing it as their favorite. A mixed team event was added this year in figure skating, which has competitive events on 11 of the Olympics' 18 days.
Ice hockey is a distant second at 6 percent, followed by Alpine skiing and snowboarding at 4 percent each. Forty-six percent of respondents say they have no preference.
Among those planning to watch or follow, the percentage identifying figure skating as their favorite rises to 35 percent. There's a gender gap, however, with 55 percent of women who plan to watch calling figure skating their favorite, compared with 15 percent of men. Among men, ice hockey runs even with figure skating; 16 percent call it their favorite.
While 45 percent of senior citizens who plan to watch say figure skating is their favorite, that falls to 24 percent for people under 40. Snowboarding tops the list for 12 percent under age 40.
Speedskating is the favorite of 11 percent of nonwhites but just 3 percent of whites.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,060 adults, and had a sampling error margin of plus-or-minus 3.9 percentage points for the full sample.
Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.
AP Director of polling Jennifer Agiesta and news survey specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com