Jan 26, 2018

2018 Winter Olympics Viewership

Author: Deep Root Analytics


Deep Root Analytics recently surveyed US adults about their likelihood to watch the 2018 Winter Olympics. We found that most Americans plan on watching at least some of the games, and that there is wide variation in popularity between events. Further, there are significant partisan and gender differences in viewership intention that merit attention from campaigns that hope to advertise during the games.


The Winter Olympics presents a unique opportunity for campaigns to connect with voters. The quasi-live format, unique sporting events, and interesting storylines will reach nearly 60% of the US viewing public over the course of the Games.

As with any television programming, viewership will vary significantly across segments of the population. The goal of this memorandum is to explore likely viewership patterns for the Winter Olympics across the population as a whole and then specifically for swing voters, Republican voters, and Democratic voters.


Deep Root Analytics conducted an online survey among N = 1,027 adults across the country from January 10 to January 12, 2018. The surveys were focused on interest in the upcoming Winter Olympics, as well as party thermometer ratings and likely voter status for the 2018 midterm elections. All results below derive from this survey.

From the questions around political views, we constructed a net partisan index by subtracting each respondent’s Democratic Party thermometer rating from their Republican Party thermometer rating. For the analysis below, “Swing Voters” are likely midterm voters with net partisan ratings between -2 and 2, suggesting little attachment to either party. “Republican Voters” are likely midterm voters with net partisan ratings of 3 or greater. Similarly, “Democratic Voters” are likely midterm voters with net partisan ratings of -3 or less.


Overall, 58% of US adults are likely to tune into the Winter Olympics at some point during its two-week run.

Of likely viewers – those who say they are likely to watch at least part of the Winter Olympics – about 43% of Americans plan on watching the Games exclusively on weekends (Sat-Sun), while a further 24% will watch exclusively on weekdays (Mon-Fri). 33% of Americans plan on watching both during weekdays and weekends.

Of likely viewers, 58% plan on watching during the evening hours (5pm-8pm), while 47% plan on watching during prime time (8pm-11pm). This suggests that, while audiences are interested in the Games, some proportion of viewers won’t disrupt their existing viewing patterns to watch. 25% of viewers plan on tuning in during daytime hours (10am-5pm), while about 12% plan on watching during the overnight (11pm-6am) or morning hours (6am-10am).

Among likely viewers, the most popular sport is figure skating, followed closely by alpine, freestyle, and ski jump events. Speed skating, bobsled / luge / skeleton, and snowboarding round out the top 5. The least popular sports are cross-country skiing, biathlon, women’s hockey, and curling.


Overall, 63% of swing voters plan on tuning into the Winter Olympics at some point, about 9% more than the general population.

Swing voters also plan on watching a somewhat different menu of events than the general population. They are 13% more likely to watch the closing ceremonies and 10% more likely to watch curling, for instance. They are 17% less likely to watch snowboarding and 16% less likely to watch men’s ice hockey.


Overall, 58% of Republicans plan on tuning into the Winter Olympics at some point, about the same as the general population.

However, viewership patterns will likely differ significantly among Republicans. They are 37% more likely to watch the opening ceremonies and 16% more likely to watch the sliding sports. In addition, they are 29% less likely to watch curling and 44% less likely to watch women’s ice hockey.



Overall, 70% of Democrats plan on tuning into the Winter Olympics at some point – a 21% higher rate than the general population.

Unsurprisingly, this means that Democrats are more likely to watch almost every Winter Olympics event. They are about 30% more likely to watch women’s ice hockey, 18% more likely to watch figure skating, and 16% more likely to watch snowboarding than the general population. The only events they’ll watch at similar levels to the general population is bobsled, luge, and skeleton.



Men and women audiences express interest in different sets of sports. Figure skating and the opening and closing ceremonies skew heavily female, while men predominate in the sliding sports, cross-country skiing, curling, and men’s hockey audiences.


Men are overrepresented overnight and morning viewing, while the daytime, evening, and prime audiences are closer to even.


For overall reach, campaigns should invest in figure skating, skiing (except cross-country), speed skating, and the sliding sports of bobsled, luge, and skeleton. These sports are likely to attract higher ratings and sustained viewer attention.

To reach swing voters, the same recommendations apply, but placing more bets on the closing ceremonies and curling could pay off. Conversely, avoid snowboarding and ice hockey if your goal is to reach disproportionate amounts of swing voters.

For Republicans, focus on the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the sliding sports. Republicans will be overrepresented among these viewers. Avoid snowboarding, curling, and women’s ice hockey if your goal is to speak exclusively to these voters.

If your campaign is trying to reach women, aim for figure skating broadcasts as well as the opening and closing ceremonies, and avoid the overnight and morning hours, as these audiences are predominantly male.

Similarly, to reach men, aim for bobsled / luge / skeleton and men’s hockey as large audiences that are predominantly male. Curling and cross-country skiing / biathlon may be good values as well, but will reach fewer people overall.