A survey conducted by Seton Hall University’s Sharkey Institute showed that a majority of Americans are hesitant to attend events in-person until there is a COVID vaccine. Two thirds said they would not attend an indoor event prior to a vaccine, regardless of social distancing measures in place. Slightly fewer – 58 percent – indicated they were not interested in attending outdoor events before a vaccine is widely available.
According to ESPN, the survey collected information from 1.506 adults across the United States. Responses were taken from November 13-16, shortly after Pfizer announced promising early results for its potential COVID vaccine. Since that time, Moderna also announced promising vaccine results, fueling hopes of a safe return to large-scale events in 2021.
The numbers were “awful numbers to ponder” for those in the live event and entertainment segments of the economy, according to Charles Grantham, who runs the department at Seton Hall that conducted the polls. Numbers were slightly higher than a similar poll conducted in April of this year, but reflect a hesitance on the part of a large proportion of people who fear large crowds even with protective measures in place.
“The recent news of vaccine breakthroughs has got to be enormously uplifting to those in the business of selling tickets, be it sports or entertainment,” Grantham says.
Officials in many states have allowed attendance at some events in recent months, though capacity has been strictly limited and social distancing and hygiene measures have been in place throughout. A study by scientists in Germany found that ventilation combined with social distancing and hygiene can make even indoor performances relatively safe for attendees even without a vaccine, but the survey shows that many plan to wait until vaccinations are widespread before getting back to arenas and other venues.
67 Percent of Americans Say No to Indoor Sporting Events Without Vaccine
South Orange NJ, November 18, 2020 — Even masked, wearing personal protective equipment and socially distanced, 67 percent of Americans surveyed said they would not attend an indoor sporting event without the availability of a vaccine for COVID-19. Fifty-eight percent said they would not attend an outdoor event under the same circumstances.
Only 21 percent said they would attend an indoor sporting event, with 12 percent saying they did not know or had no opinion; for outdoor events the number of those who said they would attend with PPE and social distancing rose to 28 percent with 14 percent saying they did not know or had no opinion.
These were the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll conducted November 13-16 among 1,506 American adults, geographically spread across the country. The Poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.
A Seton Hall Sports Poll in April of this year, which received widespread international attention and combined indoor and outdoor events, found that 72 percent would not attend these events without access to a vaccine. The poll in April also found that 61 percent of those who described themselves as sports fans said they would not attend.
In this most recent poll, 60 percent of those who described themselves as sports fans said they would not attend indoor events, while 50 percent said they would not attend outdoor events.
“The recent news of vaccine breakthroughs has got to be enormously uplifting to those in the business of selling tickets, be it sports or entertainment,” said Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management within the Stillman School of Business, which oversees the Seton Hall Sports Poll. “Even though the percentages who would not attend have improved since the spring and the onset of the pandemic, these are just awful numbers to ponder.”
Stillman Professor of Marketing and Poll Methodologist Daniel Ladik agreed, “The Pfizer announcement of an imminent and efficacious vaccine was widely published prior to our polling and is presumably reflected in these numbers. An eager nation of sports fans awaits.”
People with Children More Likely to Attend Events
Interestingly, and perhaps related to school and youth athletic events, the number of those who would attend sporting events with PPE and social distancing was greater for those with children under the age of 18. Only 49 percent of these parents said they would not attend outdoor events (compared to 58 percent of the overall population); and 60 percent said they would not attend indoor events (compared to 67 percent overall).
Do Fans in the Stands (Virtual or Otherwise) Make a Difference?
Noting that some professional and college sporting events have allowed fans with limited capacity, the poll also asked whether or not fans in the stands under these circumstances provide an advantage for the home team. Whereas 43 percent of the overall population said they believed the presence of fans provided a “home team advantage,” 53 percent of those who described themselves as sports fans said it did.
In addition, respondents were also asked whether “virtual fans” in stadiums, arenas and TV broadcasts were a good replacement for actual fans. Among the general population, 27 percent felt they were; 26 percent thought they weren’t even noticeable; 11 percent thought they were a distraction; and 36 percent did not know or had no opinion.
Self-described sports fans looked more favorably upon the virtual fans, with 35 percent saying they were a good replacement and 13 percent thinking that they were a distraction. Among the subset of those who described themselves as “avid sports fans,” the number who thought virtual fans were a good replacement was higher (by double digits) than that of sports fans in general.
Is this an Asterisk Season?
Asked to think about the impact of COVID-19 on sports in 2020 (shortened seasons, changes in game formats, etc.) respondents were asked whether or not this year’s champions in professional baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers), basketball (Los Angeles Lakers) and hockey (Tampa Bay Lightning) were “less deserving” than the champions of previous years. Among sports fans, 27 percent thought the Dodgers were less deserving; 31 percent thought the Lakers were less deserving; and 24 percent thought the Lightning were so. Among the smaller subset that described themselves as “avid sports fans,” the number that thought of the teams as less deserving was even higher (by a double digit margin in each case).
“Although many of the leagues tried admirably to salvage their seasons when most thought they would be lost, it’s obvious from these findings that the public has some doubts and concerns,” said Grantham, former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. “It will be interesting to see how the leagues — and fans — adjust moving forward.”