The United States is probably the most soccer-indifferent of all nations that regularly field World Cup teams. While the tournament is by far the biggest sporting event in soccer-obsessed nations like Ghana—which the US team will face in its first match later today—in America the most-watched World Cup games garner about as many viewers as the average NBA basketball final.
Comparing other data reveals a significant gap in enthusiasm between the US and other countries. Last week the New York Times, along with YouGov, conducted a poll of 19 countries’ attitudes toward the World Cup. American interest in soccer in general looked like this (we’re presuming Americans were asked about their interest in “soccer” rather than “football”):
Ghana wasn’t one of the countries in the NYT/YouGov survey, but a different survey carried out in Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria by GeoPoll—a pollster that uses text messages to survey Africans—found that proportionally more Ghanaians watch soccer “every day” than the American “somewhat” and “very interested” categories combined. Nearly half of all Ghanaians watch the sport at least twice a week.
American disinterest in soccer comes through in other surveys. ING asked how much money people in various countries would pay to guarantee a World Cup win for their team. Only one in 20 Americans said they would be willing to contribute 1% of their annual income to the cause, compared with one in four Brazilians and more than two in five Russians.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in both English and Spanish found that 28% of Americans think soccer is “a big bore,” with another 21% saying the beautiful game is “on the dull side.” Probably the biggest oddity of the New York Times survey data was that the team most often named as “least-favorite” by Americans was America, which scored even less favorably than Iran (albeit within a margin of error).
Nearly 90% of Ghanaians surveyed said they would be watching the World Cup. That number was high enough for the government to purchase electricity from neighboring Ivory Coast to make sure there will be enough juice for all of that televised soccer.