The majority of Britons are indifferent to the London Olympics, with the apathy translating into pessimism about the UK's economic outlook, a new survey showed Tuesday, striking a blow to the government's hopes that enthusiasm for the sporting event will lead to a consumer boom that will help drive Britain out of recession.
Four weeks ahead of the Olympic Games opening ceremony on July 27, the survey from market research company GfK Group found 70 percent of the 1,000 adults polled were indifferent or uninterested in the event.
The survey found a strong correlation between Britons who are excited about the event and those who feel optimistic about the UK economy and their personal finances during 2012.
GfK said 26 percent of consumers who described themselves as excited about the games were optimistic that the economy will improve during 2012, while only 12 percent of people who said they were indifferent or uninterested in the event believe the economy will improve this year. As regards to personal finances, 21 percent of consumers who are excited about the Olympics believe their financial situation will improve in 2012, while only 10 percent of those who are uninterested are hopeful their personal financial situation will improve this year.
One of the main factors constraining the UK economy over the past 18 months has been weak consumer confidence, which makes households more likely to rein in their spending. Faced with a domestic economy that has stumbled into a double-dip recession, the government's ongoing austerity measures and the seemingly endless eurozone crisis, sentiment among British firms and households has slumped to record low levels.
The government has been hoping that the Olympics will provide a feel-good factor that boosts confidence levels and ultimately leads to a consumer-led recovery.
In its May Inflation Report, the Bank of England estimated that the Olympics could boost the UK gross domestic product by around 0.5 percentage points in the third quarter of the year.
Tuesday's survey highlighted the link between the level of interest a consumer has in the Olympics and retail purchases, with 11 percent of people polled who say they are excited about the event saying they may buy a new television specifically for the games; six percent of those excited say they are considering buying a new laptop for the event, and seven percent may buy a barbecue.
"Those consumers who are enthused by the games are more likely to spend over the course of the summer, opening up a major and lucrative group for retailers in otherwise difficult circumstances," Pam Armstrong from GfK said.
The survey also challenges the hope that the Olympics will benefit the whole of the UK, not just London, where the Games are being held. The results show that consumers in London are relatively enthusiastic about the event, with 37 percent saying they are excited about it, while consumers in the northeast of England and in Scotland are less enthused, with just 21 percent of those surveyed saying they were excited about the event.
The survey was carried out between May 23 and May 30.