Crowds like this could return soon, as more fans are comfortable returning to live events.

Polls Shows Signs of Warming U.S. Attitudes to Live Spectator Events

A new Gallup poll found that just 18% of Americans are practicing social distancing, the lowest of any point in the pandemic. A new Morning Consult survey reveals that 67% of fans are comfortable attending outdoor events. This indicates that attitudes toward live spectator events are warming. Crowds around the country also lend credence to that attitude shift.

What Does the Data Say?

First, let’s break down the polling further. Of those 18% isolating, 13% are “mostly” staying away from others and 5% are “completely” isolating. Conversely, 47% of Americans made no attempt to isolate themselves from people outside their home, while 35% isolated “a little.” 

The Gallup poll surveys the respondents’ actions within the past 24 hours, so attitudes could continue to further shift. 

Additionally, the survey asked people how normal they felt other activities were. Just 30% of respondents indicated they felt their entertainment and recreation activities felt normal. (Comparatively, 59% said that socializing with friends and family was back to normal, the highest response of any category. You can view the full poll results here.)

The Morning Consult poll finds that a slim majority of fans would attend an indoor event, while nearly half of fans would feel comfortable at a full capacity event. (You can view a more detailed breakdown here.) 

What Do the Fans Say?

20,000 Phoenix Suns fans say “one, two, three, four…” The crowd at Phoenix Suns Arena counts in unison every time Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots free throws. The crowd’s mocking of his methodical approach at the foul line comes through loud and clear in this video of a full house.

Meanwhile on the hockey rink, the Tampa Bay Lightning clinched their second straight Stanley Cup, this time in front of a full arena.

When playing for a championship, teams can clearly find enough motivated fans to fill a venue. How does this look elsewhere, though?

Major League Baseball plays a 162-game season, so with 81 home games for each team, fans have plenty of opportunities to take in a game. As teams have opened up stadiums, average fan attendance is on the rise. 

ESPN calculates each team’s average home attendance for the season, and some teams that recently opened up are already climbing up the ranks. Beginning June 15, the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and Los Angeles Angels could open their ballparks to 100% capacity. They now sit at fourth, sixth, and 12th, respectively, in the season average ratings.

The Dodgers have an added sense of enthusiasm, as they won the World Series with no home fans in 2020. Now, per Eater, an L.A. bar is hosting a “World Series do-over” watch party for Dodgers fans to celebrate like they couldn’t last October. 

Here’s a look at one of the many full Dodgers crowds we’ve seen since California lifted its restrictions.

What’s Next?

We recently broke down data from KANTAR Sports Monitor that showed a similar uptick in willingness to attend live events. KANTAR said then that the most avid and engaged sports fans would be the “first movers” in the return of spectators. 

KANTAR concluded its report by noting that organizers “will likely need to pay special attention to the concerns of hygiene-minded, risk-averse Americans.” 

Clearly, numerous fans are ready for the return of live events. However, even as stadiums reopen and fans return, fans and teams alike must understand that not all fans are comfortable returning yet.

Our recent conference on the return of K-12 sports and school activities featured many panelists who have helped guide the return of live events. 

There, Folsom (Calif.) Schools risk management specialist Jennifer Serran said, “Please be cognizant that not everybody’s situation is the same as yours.”

Thus, an “empathetic enthusiasm” can help guide a safe and energizing return to live events. Organizations can have confidence knowing that many fans are ready to return. Additionally, some fans’ apprehension provides an incentive to create a smooth return that instills more confidence and brings back more fans. 

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