Opening ceremony changed public opinion on London 2012
by Coralie Pring
A successful opening ceremony and weekend of sporting events have helped to turn the tide of public opinion, with many people now forgetting their concerns about the cost of staging the Olympics – says polling firm
As the London 2012 Olympics gets underway, the opening ceremony and this weekend's sporting events have helped to turn the tide of British public opinion - with many more people now rallying in support of the Games. The latest poll from ComRes found that the public are more positive about the estimated £9.3bn cost of the Games to the British taxpayer than they were in March.
In the run-up to the festival of sport, many people were worried about just how much the taxpayer -- compared to private companies and sponsors - would have to contribute to the cost of hosting. A ComRes poll at the beginning of July found that 59 per cent thought that the taxpayer had paid too much to cover the cost of the event. This also reflects consistent public concern, identified in polls throughout 2012, about the state of personal finances and the United Kingdom economy generally.
Despite this, we find that half of the British public are now saying that the Games are worth the public money being spent on them. Opinion on this issue has shifted from when we last tested it back in March, when just two in five people – or 40 per cent - thought that the Olympics were worth the cost to the public purse.
In fact, we found growing public positivity towards the Games over the course of the opening weekend. Of those who answered the survey before 9pm on Friday, before the opening ceremony started, just 43 per cent thought that the Games offered value for money. However, of those who answered after the opening ceremony, this figure rose by 10 percentage points to 53 per cent. We also found a clear trend of increasing optimism towards London 2012 over the opening weekend. Of those who answered the survey on Friday, 43 per cent thought that the Olympics offered value for money for the public purse. On Saturday, this proportion rose to 52 per cent. And on Sunday it peaked at 57 per cent.
A number of factors may be contributing to this effect. The very visible arrival of visitors to the UK and the widely heralded success of the opening ceremony may be important, while the excitement of watching athletes compete could also be having an impact. At this stage it is unclear which of these and other drivers are behind the shift.
Public opinion is not consistently positive, however. There is a clear difference of opinion between the various social grades in Britain. Those in the social grades AB tend to be more positive than those in social grades DE about the cost of the Games to the public purse. Men are also more likely than women to think the Olympics are financially beneficial for Britain.
Previous Olympic Games have shown that after the events are finished and the athletes have returned to their home nations, a major re-assessment of the value to the host country will be made. Only time and future research will tell whether the public think that they have been a success for Britain.
Coralie Pring is a senior research analyst at the ComRes polling firm, in the United Kingdom
Amazing what propaganda can do. Fortunately, not everyone believes it.
Ian Baldwin - Hingham, England