What Americans think of the Oscars in 2022: Politics, diverse nominees, and COVID-19

Jamie BallardData Journalist
March 24, 2022, 1:55 AM GMT+0

The Oscars (also known as the Academy Awards) are happening on Sunday, March 27. YouGov asked Americans about a variety of Oscars topics, including what they think about politics in winners’ speeches, the Academy’s rules around COVID-19 at this year’s ceremony, and whether certain foreign films should be eligible for multiple awards. Many questions exposed big political divides around a night of celebration for motion pictures.

The divide begins on the topic of whether Americans are interested in the Oscars in the first place. About one-quarter (26%) of Americans say they are at least somewhat interested in the Academy Awards.

Democrats (43%) are more than twice as likely as Independents (17%) and Republicans (19%) to say they are very interested or somewhat interested in the Oscars.

Americans who live in cities (36%) are also more likely than those in suburbs (25%), towns (13%), and rural areas (23%) to say they’re interested in the Oscars. 

The political divide also extends to having seen this year’s Best Picture nominees: 63% of Democrats have seen at least one, compared to 45% of Republicans.

Last year’s Oscars ceremony included Regina King and other award winners discussing the Derek Chauvin verdict and racism in America. In 2020, Brad Pitt referenced Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and Joaquin Phoenix used his time onstage to speak about injustice. Several other recent winners also have made political comments during their acceptance speeches. Suffice it to say, the Oscars can get political — but do Americans think this is appropriate?

Most (54%) Americans say it is not appropriate for Oscar winners to discuss politics in their acceptance speeches. Fewer (28%) say that it is appropriate, and the remaining 19% are unsure.

But among Americans who are very interested or somewhat interested in the Oscars, more (46%) say it is appropriate for winners to talk politics. Two in five (40%) disagree.

Members of different political parties tend to feel differently about this topic.

Three-quarters of Republicans (76%) say it is inappropriate for Oscar winners to discuss politics in their acceptance speeches. Less than half the share (35%) of Democrats agree while 53% say it is appropriate. Among Independents, 56% say it’s inappropriate while 17% think it is appropriate.

COVID-19 precautions and the 2022 Oscars

Last year, the Academy Awards instituted COVID-19 precautions, including moving the ceremony to a larger location, spacing out the tables between guests, and limiting the number of attendees.

This year, the COVID-19 safety precautions are a bit more complex. The audience of 2,500 invited guests (including nominees) will be required to show proof of vaccination and at least two negative PCR tests. However, performers and presenters at the awards will not be required to show proof of vaccination, although they will need to undergo “rigorous testing,” according to the New York Times. Mask requirements will also vary, depending on where in the theater people are seated.

When asked about whether they support or oppose this year’s Oscars ceremony not requiring performers and presenters to provide proof of vaccination, slightly more Americans say they support (41%) this rule than say they oppose it (36%).

Among people who are interested in the Oscars, 46% say they oppose this rule while 38% support it.

The majority of Republicans (55%) support allowing performers and presenters to bypass proof of vaccination, while only 31% of Democrats agree.

Should non-English films be eligible for Best Picture?

There are also political divides around the topic of foreign films at the Oscars.

The Best International Feature Film category at the Academy Awards honors films produced outside the United States with a predominantly non-English dialogue track. However, films nominated in this category are also eligible for other awards. In 2020, “Parasite” won the awards for both Best International Feature Film and Best Picture. This year, the Japanese film “Drive My Car” is also nominated for both Best Picture and Best International Feature Film.

About one-third (35%) of Americans say the Academy Awards should equally consider all foreign and domestic films for all awards, but just as many (35%) think it should primarily focus on giving awards to films with English dialogue that are produced in the U.S.

Democrats and Republicans hold largely opposing views on this. About half (48%) of Democrats say the Academy should equally consider foreign films, while only 25% of Republicans agree.

Some awards will be removed from the live telecast, but Americans are largely indifferent

This year, the Academy plans to present eight awards — documentary short, film editing, makeup/hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live-action short, and sound — in the hour before the live telecast.

This has proved to be a controversial move, with actress Jessica Chastain saying she would skip the pre-show red carpet so she could go support the makeup/hairstyling team who worked with her on "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." Several directors — including Jane Campion, Steven Spielberg, and Guillermo del Toro — also have spoken out against the decision.

But while it may be a big deal in the industry, Americans overall don’t have much to say about this decision. About one-quarter (24%) say they’d prefer that these awards be presented live as part of the regular show, while 19% would prefer the Academy stick with its plan to present them ahead of time. But as many (43%) say they have no preference as choose either option, and another 14% are unsure.

Those who are very or somewhat interested in the Oscars are slightly more opinionated. More than one-third (36%) say they would prefer for the eight awards to be presented live, and 32% would prefer for these to be presented ahead of time. One in five (20%) have no preference.

In 2022, do Americans see the Oscars as sufficiently diverse?

In recent years, some high-profile people in the film industry have criticized the Academy Awards for lacking diversity when it comes to award nominees. This year, the films and people nominated “reveal a gradual trickle-up effect for diversity, with added recognition for women and people from the global majority in both onscreen and behind-the-scenes roles,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Americans aren’t necessarily convinced. While one-quarter (25%) say the Oscars do not have a problem in terms of diversity of race, nationality, and gender, about as many (27%) say they believe the Oscars do have a diversity problem. Another 30% say they have not heard anything about the Oscars related to diversity.

Black Americans (47%) are about twice as likely as white Americans (23%) to say the Oscars have a diversity problem. Only one in 10 (10%) Black Americans say the Oscars do not have a diversity problem, while 28% of white Americans agree.

Among Americans who are interested in the Oscars, 41% believe the Oscars have a diversity problem. One-quarter (25%) disagree.

About half (49%) of Democrats believe the Oscars have a diversity problem. Fewer than half as many Independents (17%) or Republicans (14%) agree. Among Republicans, 39% say the Oscars do not have a diversity problem and 33% say they haven’t heard anything about this recently.

Women (31%) are more likely than men (22%) to believe that the Oscars have a diversity problem. Just one in five women (20%) believe the Oscars do not have a diversity problem while 30% of men agree.

Across different age groups, similar proportions of people think that the Oscars have a diversity problem. Among adults under 30, 22% think the Oscars have a diversity issue; 26% of 30- to 44-year-olds agree. A similar percentage of 45- to 64-year-olds (28%) feel the same way, and among Americans who are 65 or older, 29% think the Oscars have a diversity problem.

Compared to 2020, Americans are slightly less likely to believe the Oscars have a diversity problem in 2022. When asked the same question in 2020, one-third (32%) of Americans believed that the Oscars had a diversity problem. Most Black Americans (55%) felt this way, along with 37% of women.

Related: Oscars 2022: Americans say Best Picture competition is wide open

See the toplines and crosstabs from this U.S. News poll

Methodology: The U.S. News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between March 3 - 7, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes) and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens.

Image: Getty