How Americans Feel About Qatar Hosting The World Cup

How Americans Feel About Qatar Hosting The World Cup

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

On Tuesday, the U.S. men’s national team defeated Iran 1-0 in a grueling soccer match to advance to the 2022 World Cup’s round of 16. Next up, the team will face the Netherlands on Saturday in a win-or-go-home game in which the U.S. will be the underdog — but not a total longshot.

Yet while the U.S. team’s on-field performance has surely pleased Americans, a substantial chunk of the country remains skeptical of the decision to hold the tournament in Qatar. The host country has drawn scrutiny for not only the allegedly corrupt manner in which it won hosting rights, but also for its human rights practices, including discrimination against women and LGBTQ people, and the mistreatment of migrant workers, who suffered from labor abuses such as wage theft, injury or death while building the gleaming infrastructure used for the World Cup. Still, such wariness has not notably dissuaded Americans from tuning in to watch the tournament.

Americans may have actually become more critical of the decision to have Qatar host the World Cup since it began. In late October, before the event kicked off, YouGov surveyed attitudes in six Western nations, including the U.S., and found Americans didn’t notably favor or oppose Qatar hosting. Asked if it was acceptable or unacceptable for Qatar to hold international sporting events, 31 percent of Americans (which included a mix of self-identified soccer fans and non-fans) said it was acceptable compared with 22 percent who said it was unacceptable. Forty-seven percent said they weren’t sure. By contrast, most other Western nations didn’t think Qatar hosting a major athletic event was acceptable: Majorities of respondents (which again included a mix of fans and non-fans) in France, Germany, Spain and the U.K. said it was unacceptable, though 46 percent of Italians said it was acceptable.

But subsequent polling from YouGov/The Economist found a greater share of Americans viewed it as wrong for Qatar to host the World Cup specifically. In mid-November, just before the event started, 36 percent of Americans said it was wrong for Qatar to host in light of the criticisms over the country’s “human rights record and stance on LGBTQ+ rights,” while 23 percent thought it was right for Qatar to host (41 percent weren’t sure). But two weeks later, 45 percent said it was wrong for Qatar to host, while 18 percent said it was right (37 percent weren’t sure). Many Americans don’t have an opinion, but the increase in net opposition to Qatar’s host status (from +13 to +27) suggests a large section of the public is critical.

Americans also seem favorably disposed toward addressing human rights concerns in Qatar. Another YouGov poll, conducted in August and September on behalf of Amnesty International, found 54 percent of Americans agreed that U.S. soccer officials should speak out on human rights issues associated with Qatar, while 56 percent supported FIFA using some of the money generated by the tournament to compensate migrant workers who have suffered while preparing the country for the event. Now, Americans were comparatively less supportive of both prompts than most of the other 14 countries polled, but the U.S. also had a larger share of people who weren’t sure.

However, controversy surrounding aspects of this World Cup hasn’t necessarily made Americans want the U.S. team to pull out of the tournament. The most recent poll from YouGov/The Economist found that 32 percent said the U.S. team should have boycotted the World Cup while 31 percent opposed the idea (37 percent weren’t sure), which means a notably smaller share favored this more aggressive action than the share that said it was wrong for Qatar to host.

And it turns out plenty of Americans have been watching. Headed into the tournament, polls from Morning Consult, Ipsos and YouGov/Amnesty International found that around a quarter of Americans were likely to watch at least some of the event. It’s true that the internationally focused Reuters and YouGov/Amnesty International surveys put the U.S. well toward the bottom of countries polled when it came to the population share who planned to follow the World Cup. Yet this isn’t that surprising, considering soccer usually ranks behind other team sports like (American) football, basketball, baseball and (sometimes) hockey in terms of Americans’ level of general interest, whereas soccer is the most popular sport in most other nations. Despite this, Americans are still tuning in: Nearly 20 million watched the U.S. team’s second group match — against England — which Fox Sports said was the most-watched men’s soccer game in U.S. history.

Even as this World Cup moves into the “knockout” stage, we can look ahead a bit to 2026, when the U.S. will co-host the next World Cup with Canada and Mexico. So we’ll be hearing plenty about international soccer in the coming months and years, no matter what happens against the Dutch.

Other polling bites

  • Led by a conservative majority, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently released decisions that favor conservative religious values and groups, including overturning the constitutional right to an abortion and refusing to allow states to exclude private religious schools from certain public funding programs. As a result, the Pew Research Center recently found that 35 percent of Americans viewed the court as “friendly” toward religion, up from 18 percent in 2019. By comparison, 51 percent considered the court “neutral” toward religion, down from 69 percent in 2019, while an equivalent share (11 percent) said it was “unfriendly” in 2019 and 2022. Americans across most demographic and religious groups increasingly viewed the court as friendly toward religion, with some of the largest shifts coming among Democrats (52 percent said the court was friendly, up from 25 percent in 2019), the religiously unaffiliated (51 percent, up from 26 percent) and those with a four-year college degree (48 percent, up from 23 percent).
  • As society enters a potentially volatile period for social media, Harris/Grid conducted a poll to examine social media usage among American adults. Facebook remained dominant as 75 percent of Americans reported using it in the past six months, while YouTube was close behind at 71 percent. About half (51 percent) said they used Instagram, but only 34 percent said the same of Twitter and TikTok. But there were sizable generational differences, as the youngest Americans in the poll (Gen Z) were far more likely to use YouTube, Instagram and TikTok than older Americans.
  • In its post-midterm survey, the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Civility Poll found that 75 percent of Americans agreed that “democracy is under attack,” while only 24 percent disagreed. Americans of all political stripes mostly agreed, including 80 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of independents. Most people agreed, regardless of their party affiliation, that biased news coverage, decreasing respect and civility, social media self-reinforcing users’ views and an increasing amount of violent behavior were extremely or very serious threats to democracy. But Democrats and Republicans strongly disagreed about other issues, with Republicans far more likely to say that “voter fraud causing stolen elections” and “woke culture imposing out of touch liberal values” were extremely or very serious threats, while Democrats were much more inclined to say this regarding “voter suppression and intimidation efforts.”
  • Morning Consult found a slight decline in the share of Americans who plan to get a COVID-19 booster sometime in the next year. In mid-November, 53 percent of U.S. adults said they would “definitely” or “probably” get a booster, down from 58 percent in September. When respondents who were already vaccinated but not boosted were asked for “major” or “minor” reasons why they weren’t getting a booster shot, 45 percent said they didn’t see the point and 40 percent said they weren’t worried about getting COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 is still on some Americans’ minds as they start to make holiday plans, though, according to a Harris/Time survey. Overall, there’s evidence that concerns about COVID-19 may be ebbing, since 72 percent of American adults planned to celebrate with at least one person outside their household, down from 81 percent in 2019 but up from 66 percent from 2021. But traveling for the holidays may still be more limited than it was before the pandemic, as 45 percent said they planned to go somewhere for the holidays, up only slightly from 42 percent in 2021 and down from 58 percent in 2019. And 55 percent said concerns about COVID-19 will affect their holiday plans, with around one-third specifically planning to limit the size of their gatherings.
  • Now that it’s early December, Americans are ready to be bombarded with holiday advertising. A Morning Consult survey in mid-November found that about half of Americans said that mid-November or late November were “just right” for brands to begin holiday marketing campaigns. In fact, 53 percent said early December was “somewhat” or “way” too late for brands to start advertising. But an overwhelming 66 percent thought that starting holiday advertising in mid-October was somewhat or way too early. One thing is for sure: Americans like holiday ads. The survey found that 70 percent said they were at least somewhat enjoyable while only 24 percent said they were somewhat or mostly annoying.

Biden approval

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.4 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 53.2 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -11.7 points). At this time last week, 41.8 percent approved and 52.9 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -11.1 points). One month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 42.4 percent and a disapproval rating of 53.7 percent, for a net approval rating of -11.4 points.

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