2022 World Cup: Sports Fans Gulp Over Host Nation Qatar’s Human Rights Record

Majority say interest is lessened over FIFA decision to play in Qatar. 

It was not without some controversy that Qatar was selected as host of the 2022 World Cup. The country has been accused of human rights violations including most recently providing low pay and dangerous working conditions for migrant workers who have been building the stadiums and infrastructure necessary to accommodate the games. Asked if such knowledge lessened their interest in the event, 63 percent of avid sports fans, and 51 percent of sports fans say yes, with only 25 percent of avids and 28 percent of sports fans saying no.

Among the general U.S. population, 41 percent say interest is lessened because of the World Cup being situated in Qatar (30 percent said their interest isn’t lessened, perhaps in some way reflecting that this year the U.S. men’s national team is back in the competition).

These were the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted this month among 1,514 adults across the country. The poll features a national representative sample weighted on U.S. Census Bureau figures for gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.

FIFA Ethical?

FIFA is the world governing body responsible for the World Cup tournament. Respondents were asked if they believe FIFA is an ethically centered organization. Among avid fans, 48 percent said yes (33 percent no), among sports fans 32 percent said yes (35 percent no) and among the general population, 22 percent said yes (34 percent no). The rest said they did not know or held no opinion.

“While these numbers show the perception among Americans that FIFA is an ethical organization, I expect these numbers to change as we get closer to the tournament.” said Seton Hall Marketing Professor and Poll Methodologist Daniel Ladik. “The increase in interest will bring an increase in scrutiny and we in the States will begin to see some of the stories challenging FIFA’s ethics and the choice of Qatar as the location of this year’s World Cup.”

“As a worldwide sport governing body, FIFA continues to fail its fan base with demonstrated, unethical and corrupt leadership,” said Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management within Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business, which sponsors the Poll. “In time, it will effect the integrity of the tournament.”

Interest Jumps in U.S.
With the United States men’s soccer team having qualified for participation in the 2022 World Cup for the first time in eight years, interest in the international tournament has taken a notable jump among U.S. fans. Today, asked if they planned on watching, 39 percent of sports fans, 58 percent of avid fans, and 25 percent of the general population say they do.

Before the U.S. National Team qualified these numbers were lower. When asked about viewing plans in March, prior to the U.S. qualifying, 34 percent of sports fans, 49 percent of avid fans and 21 percent of the general population expressed interest in watching the 2022 World Cup. With just eight intervening weeks between polls, these are significant increases in interest. The March poll was conducted March 11-14. The U.S. qualified on March 30; 2022 World Cup play will begin November 21.

Of course, soccer is not America’s first sport, as it is in most nations of the world, and there are still many who have no stated plans to watch – 65 percent of the general population, 56 percent of sports fans and 45 percent of avid fans said “no” to “will you be watching?”

15% Jump in Interest for Avid Sports Fans
Chronologically we can infer that the rise in interest in the U.S. corresponds with the inclusion of the U.S. Men’s National Team. The degree of interest also spiked. Asked specifically if the inclusion of a U.S. team has made one more interested in watching, 63 percent of avid fans, 46 percent of sports fans and 30 percent of the general public agreed. When asked in March (prior to qualification) whether the presence of a U.S. team would make them more interested, 48 percent of avid fans, 34 percent of sports fans and 21 percent of the general public said yes. Actual qualification corresponds to an increase of interest among avid fans of 15 percent, 12 percent for fans and 9 percent for the general public.

Canada and Mexico?
The American public clearly has a strong support for the U.S. team, but there is support as well for neighboring countries. Among avid fans, 70 percent say they will be rooting for the U.S., with nine percent saying Mexico and eight percent saying Canada. Among sports fans it is 62 percent U.S., eight percent Mexico and five percent Canada, and among the general population, it is 48 percent U.S., six percent Mexico and four percent Canada.

Ukraine
The potential presence of a team representing Ukraine also has people interested in the Cup. Asked if they would be more interested in watching because the Ukraine is playing, 57 percent of avid fans said yes (33 percent no), 40 percent of sports fans said yes (also 40 percent no), and 28 percent of the general population (43 percent no).

Rising Popularity, Participation for Soccer in U.S.

The relative popularity of soccer in the U.S. may be attributable to participation in the sport. Whereas 27 percent of the general population said they had played soccer on a team or in a league, 47 percent of those with children say their kids have played.

Q6a. Including your childhood, have you ever played soccer on any team or league (recreationally or competitively)?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 27% 37% 14% 54% 27%
No 61% 55% 69% 41% 64%
Don’t know/No opinion 12% 8% 17% 5% 9%

 

Q6b. If you have children, have they played soccer on any team or league (recreationally or competitively)?

 

N=398

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 47% 57% 21% 62% 52%
No 45% 38% 60% 36% 41%
Don’t know/No opinion 8% 5% 19% 2% 7%

 

Paid Subscriptions to Watch Among Soccer Fans  

Of those who describe themselves as fans of the beautiful game, 50 percent say they subscribe to one or more media services in order to watch premium soccer – that number rises to 71 percent for avid fans.

Do you subscribe to any streaming or cable services that require additional payment with the intent of watching soccer? e.g. ESPN+ for Bundesliga, Peacock for English Premier League, Paramount+ for UEFA Champions League and NWSL etc.

 

N=730

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 42% 50% 14% 71% 33%
No 50% 43% 75% 26% 58%
Don’t know/No opinion 8% 7% 11% 3% 9%

 

#  #  #

 

Questions with charted breakdowns below; an online version of this release may be found at http://blogs.shu.edu/sportspoll/

 

May 2022 Seton Hall Sports Poll Results

 

This SHSP was conducted May 5th through May 9th and includes responses from 1,514 US adults with a margin of error of 3.2%. The sample mirrors the US Census percentages on age, gender, income, education, ethnicity, and region.

And now a few questions about soccer and the 2022 World Cup Tournament

Q6a. Including your childhood, have you ever played soccer on any team or league (recreationally or competitively)?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 27% 37% 14% 54% 27%
No 61% 55% 69% 41% 64%
Don’t know/No opinion 12% 8% 17% 5% 9%

 

Q6b. If you have children, have they played soccer on any team or league (recreationally or competitively)? [SKIP! only shown to those w/children]

 

N=398

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 47% 57% 21% 62% 52%
No 45% 38% 60% 36% 41%
Don’t know/No opinion 8% 5% 19% 2% 7%

 

Q6c. Do you currently watch soccer on TV and/or on a streaming service?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 24% 37% 7% 56% 25%
No 65% 56% 77% 40% 66%
Don’t know/No opinion 11% 7% 16% 4% 9%

Q6d. Do you consider soccer to be more trendy than other sports?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 27% 37% 13% 55% 26%
No 52% 51% 55% 39% 58%
Don’t know/No opinion 21% 12% 32% 6% 16%

 

Q7. What is your level of interest in professional soccer? (i.e., any of the professional leagues in the U.S. or around the world)

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

This is one of my TOP interests 11% 19% 2% 38% 7%
Somewhat interested 20% 30% 7% 35% 28%
Not very interested 17% 18% 16% 11% 22%
Not interested at all 52% 33% 75% 16% 43%

 

Q8. Which of the following professional soccer leagues around the world are you interested in? Please mark all that apply. [SKIP! only shown to soccer fans]

 

U.S. professional leagues (e.g. MLS, USL, NWSL)

Mexican professional leagues (e.g. Liga MX, Liga de Expansion MX, Liga MX Femenil)

South American professional leagues (e.g. Primera División Argentina, Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, Copa Libertadores)

European professional leagues (e.g. Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1)

Asian professional leagues (e.g. UAE Pro League, K-League, J-League 1)

African professional leagues (e.g. Botola Pro, Egyptian Premier League, Ligue Professionnelle 1)

 

N=730

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

U.S. leagues 50% 50% 50% 40% 59%
Mexican leagues 23% 23% 22% 29% 17%
South American leagues 23% 23% 22% 29% 17%
European leagues 41% 41% 41% 42% 40%
Asian leagues 14% 14% 9% 16% 15%
African leagues 16% 16% 9% 22% 14%

 

 

Q9a. Many of the best soccer matches can only be seen from behind a pay service and require soccer fans to sign up for a subscription. [SKIP! only shown to soccer fans]

 

Do you subscribe to any streaming or cable services that require additional payment with the intent of watching soccer? E.g. ESPN+ for Bundesliga, Peacock for English Premier League, Paramount+ for UEFA Champions League and NWSL etc.

 

N=730

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 42% 50% 14% 71% 33%
No 50% 43% 75% 26% 58%
Don’t know/No opinion 8% 7% 11% 3% 9%

 

Q9b. The World Cup is the biggest international soccer tournament, and only 32 nations from around the world qualify. Do you plan on watching/following the 2022 World Cup?

 

By watch / follow, we mean that you will either:
– actively read about the tournament
– AND/OR watch live broadcasts or highlights of matches online or TV
– AND/OR attend matches in person.

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 25% 39% 7% 58% 29%
No 60% 50% 72% 34% 59%
Don’t know/No opinion 15% 11% 21% 8% 12%

 

Q9c. FIFA is the world governing body for soccer and is responsible for organizing the World Cup. Do you believe that FIFA is an ethically centered organization?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 22% 32% 8% 48% 23%
No 34% 35% 33% 33% 35%
Don’t know/No opinion 44% 33% 59% 19% 42%

 

Q10a. The Ukrainian Men’s National Team is in contention as one of the final countries to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Would the inclusion of the Ukrainian Men’s National Team make you more interested in watching the 2022 World Cup games?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 28% 40% 12% 57% 29%
No 43% 40% 47% 33% 45%
Don’t know/No opinion 29% 20% 41% 10% 26%

Q10b. FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, banned Russia from participating in the forthcoming 2022 World Cup. Do you agree with this decision?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 53% 62% 42% 63% 62%
No 21% 21% 21% 25% 19%
Don’t know/No opinion 26% 17% 37% 12% 19%

 

Q10c. The U.S. Men’s National Team qualified for the 2022 World Cup. Does the inclusion of the U.S. Men’s National Team make you more interested in watching 2022 World Cup games?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 30% 46% 9% 63% 35%
No 48% 40% 59% 30% 47%
Don’t know/No opinion 22% 14% 32% 7% 18%

 

Q11a. Mexico and Canada also qualified for the 2022 World Cup. Which, if any, of the following teams will you root for?

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

United States 48% 62% 31% 70% 57%
Mexico 6% 8% 3% 9% 7%
Canada 4% 5% 2% 8% 3%
Other (write in) 3% 3% 4% 2% 3%
Don’t know/No opinion 39% 22% 60% 11% 30%

 

Q11b. The 2022 World Cup is being held in Qatar, a country accused of human rights violations, including providing low pay and dangerous working conditions for migrant workers who have been building the stadiums and sports infrastructure to host the World Cup.

 

N=1,514

 

General

Population

Sports

Fan

Non Fan Avid

Fan

Casual

Fan

Yes 41% 51% 29% 63% 43%
No 30% 28% 33% 25% 30%
Don’t know/No opinion 29% 21% 38% 12% 27%

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE POLL

The Seton Hall Sports Poll, conducted regularly since 2006, is performed by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business. This poll was conducted online by YouGov Plc. using a national representative sample weighted according to gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography, based on U.S. Census Bureau figures. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. The Seton Hall Sports Poll has been chosen for inclusion in iPoll by Cornell’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research and its findings have been published everywhere from USA Today, ESPN, The New York Times, Washington Post, AP, and Reuters to CNBC, NPR, Yahoo Finance, Fox News and many points in between.

Media:  Michael Ricciardelli, Associate Director of Media Relations, Seton Hall University
michael.ricciardelli@shu.edu, 908-447-3034; Marty Appel, AppelPR@gmail.com