Utahns overwhelmingly support future Olympic bid

Results of a recent statewide poll indicate that 12 years after hosting the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and on the eve of the Sochi, Russia, Olympic Games, 92 percent of Utahns believe the state benefitted from hosting the games in 2002, and 82 percent support making a bid to host the games in the future.

Conducted in partnership by Dan Jones & Associates and the David Eccles School of Business from January 23 to January 25, the survey shows strong public backing for a future bid, possibly in 2026.  Moreover, the poll results appear to be consistent with the direction of Utah’s leadership—the Utah Olympic Exploratory Committee, under the guidance of Governor Gary Herbert, has unanimously recommended that Salt Lake City pursue a bid in 2026, should the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) submit a bid.

“Residents can see what Utah gained from hosting in 2002,” commented Dr. Dan Jones. “The Games spurred the development of Utah’s infrastructure.  We have Olympic-ready facilities along the Wasatch Front, and positive media exposure has bolstered tourism growth and the overall state economy.”

The data comes from the inaugural monthly survey launched by Dan Jones & Associates and the David Eccles School of Business. The Utah Business Sentiment Survey provides a monthly indication of business conditions, policy preferences and current issues facing the state of Utah. The most recent survey was completed by 1,622 Utahns.  It focused on the public perceptions of the benefits of Utah hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics and support of Utah making a bid to host a future Winter Olympics.

Here are the results:

Benefit and Support of Hosting the Winter Olympics

To what degree has Utah benefited from hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics?/Answer (%)

  • Strongly benefited 47%
  • Benefited 45%
  • Neither benefited nor hurt 6%
  • Hurt 1%
  • Strongly hurt 0%

To what degree would you support Utah making a bid to host a future Winter Olympics, such as in 2026?/Answer (%)

  • Strongly support 46%
  • Support 36%
  • Neither support nor oppose 11%
  • Oppose 6%
  • Strongly oppose 3%

Other interesting findings include the following:

• 96 percent of Republicans believe Utah benefited from hosting the Winter Olympics in 2012. This figure is slightly greater than that of Democrats (89 percent) and Independent Voters (90 percent). Of those who consider themselves on the conservative side of the political spectrum, 95 percent believe the state benefited from hosting, compared to 87 percent of those who consider themselves to be on the liberal side.
• 88 percent of Republicans would support Utah making a bid to host a future Winter Olympics. This percentage is noticeably higher than the 74 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Independent Voters who would support a bid. On the political spectrum, 85 percent of conservatives would support Utah making a bid for the Winter Olympics, compared to 71 percent of liberals.
• Ostensibly, the vast majority of Utahns feel that hosting the Winter Olympics in 2002 benefited the state and its residents. A dominant portion of Utah residents would support Utah making a bid to host again in the future. These sentiments are relatively consistent with residents throughout all age groups, income and education levels, and ethnicities.

Survey participants, including responses from 1,622 Utahns, originate from a database of Utahns by mail, landline telephone, cell phone and e-mail. 

“Hosting the Olympics again is a serious endeavor by any measure,” said Natalie Gochnour, an Associate Dean at the David Eccles School of Business, which partnered on this survey. “A bid would require our best financial, environmental and community stewardship, but clearly the public supports another bid.”

Plans are currently moving in the direction of a future Olympic bid. The USOC has decided not to pursue the 2022 Games, but the potential exists for Utah to host in 2026. Utah possesses strengths that would make it a logical choice for hosting in 2026—Utah’s facilities are routinely utilized by world class athletes, the local economy is comparatively strong, and the state’s infrastructure is likely more apt for hosting a successful Winter Olympics than other cities considering a future bid.

“The vast majority of Utah residents think hosting in 2002 was a victory and this sentiment is even seen among those who weren’t living in Utah at the time of the games” said Dr. Jones.  “It’s very rare that you find 92 percent support for such a large public endeavor.”

Hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics had positive effects on Utah’s economy that are still felt today. The world saw what Utah has to offer, and tourism has increased significantly as the state is now viewed as an elite destination for winter sports.  Randy Shumway, President and CEO of the Cicero Group, commented, “The most considerable effect of hosting the Olympics in 2002 and hosting again in the future is job creation. Improving the infrastructure, creating new facilities, and preparing for the influx of people creates more and more jobs for Utahns.  Hosting again will improve Utah’s tourism industry, making it even more robust than it is already. In addition to enjoying the spectacle and fun of the Olympics, the majority of Utahn’s have seen what hosting in 2002 has done for the state and are eager for another opportunity.”