This week, the White House announced that it would not send President Biden nor any U.S. government official to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing next February. Heavy pressure to boycott on human rights grounds was growing from lawmakers in both parties, primarily citing the curtailment of individual rights and political liberties in Hong Kong and the brutal repression of minority Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, which both the Trump and Biden administrations have declared a “genocide.” Anglosphere allies Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom followed suit with their own diplomatic boycotts.
A CSP/TIPP poll of 1,301 Americans, conducted just before the diplomatic boycott was announced, asked respondents whether they believed “the United States should boycott and not send athletes to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.” While the announced diplomatic boycott has symbolic and strategic significance, it is a relatively toothless declaration in that it does not interfere with the participation of American athletes at the Games. The last time the United States staged a total athletic boycott was the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow, in a move meant to punish the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the year before. In 1980, 65 countries (mostly Western allies and Islamic nations) boycotted while 80 countries participated. It is ominous that we potentially face this reality again, as last time, the context was a serious geopolitical crisis between rival superpowers.
Respondents were able to choose from three options, one with five distinct scenarios/circumstances:
One that the U.S. should “not under any foreseeable circumstances” withdraw their athletes from the games (25%), or
that an athlete boycott was justified in one of five circumstances: