By Mark Bendeich and Chris Kahn
(Reuters) – Most Americans want Olympic athletes to keep their political views to themselves in Rio de Janeiro, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, despite one of the most intense political build-ups to the Games in recent decades.
Host nation Brazil has been roiled by a domestic political crisis. And in a tense summer of fatal shootings by and against U.S. police officers, American activists from the Black Lives Matter movement recently extended their campaign to Rio de Janeiro, marching through the city with Brazilian partners to protest against violent discrimination by Brazilian police.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 3,015 people, interviewed online over July 22-26, found that a majority of Americans, whether they identify as white or as belonging to a racial minority, felt that it was best to keep politics out of the Olympics. The poll has a credibility interval of 2 percent.
See the results of the poll here: http://tmsnrt.rs/2aQibDj
Overall, 65 percent wanted politics to play no part in the Games while about a quarter felt athletes should express their political views if they wish.
Forty-eight years after American-American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a Black Power salute on the medals podium at the Mexico City Games, Americans from racial minorities are only slightly more willing to accept political gestures.
Asked if Olympic athletes should express their political views, 52 percent of those from racial minorities answered no, with about a third taking the opposite view.
The Rio Games have also been tinged by a Russian doping scandal with Cold War overtones, with Russian officials accusing the West of a political conspiracy to ban dozens of Russians from competition, including 67 track and field athletes.
The poll found 29 percent of Americans believe that at least half of all Olympic athletes use performance-enhancing drugs, though most think cheats are a minority.
In a smaller poll of 2,044 people, with a credibility interval of 3 percent, about 75 percent believed Russian athletes were more likely to be using drugs, an unsurprising result given that on July 18 an independent report uncovered rampant state-sponsored doping in Russian athletics.
They were also suspicious of Chinese athletes, but almost a third of Americans also felt their own athletes were more likely to cheat.
(Reporting by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Mary Milliken)