The Sochi Olympics exceeded expectations

February 26, 2014, 12:40 PM GMT+0

Americans got something they did not expect from the just-finished Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia – a successful and safe competition.

Though the United States did not win the most medals (Russia did), 55% of Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll describe the Games as “successful,” something only 36% expected as the Games began. But Russian President Vladimir Putin may not have achieved his goal: his image among Americans has changed not at all.

As the Games began, nearly half the public wasn’t quite sure what to expect for them. The threat of a terrorist attack existed, and deaths in nearby Volgograd inflated that concern. But now, that unsureness has shifted to a positive evaluation. Man and women, liberals and conservatives agree that the Games have been a success.

In last week’s poll, one could find the trend moving in this direction. After just over a week of competition, 49% called the Games successful. And most Americans this week have seen at least some of the competition: two in three have watched at least a few events and more than a quarter have watched “lots.”

Calling the Games a success is clearly not just a reaction to U.S. performance. While the U.S. men defeated Russia in ice hockey, one barometer of American Winter Games success, neither team won a medal. And there were some unexpected failures, too, in events like speed skating and snowboarding.

But there is little indication the success of the Winter Olympics has done anything to improve the image of Russia or its President, Vladimir Putin. By two to one, Americans still say that the International Olympic Committee’s decision to hold the Games in Sochi wasn’t a good one: just 23% say it was, up just eight points from what Americans said before the Games began.

The U.S. ice hockey team may have beaten the Russians, but the host country led in the overall medal count, over the United States. Americans have little love for the Russian leader, Putin, and if his goal for the Sochi Olympics was to soften his image around the world, he failed – at least in the United States. More than three times as many Americans have an unfavorable view as have a favorable view of the Russian President, no different from the opinions they expressed before the Games began.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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