Aug 7, 2021 - Sports

Exclusive poll: Americans care about Olympians' mental health

Do you support or oppose Simon Biles’s decision to withdraw from competition for mental health reasons?
Data: Momentive; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A majority of Americans — especially women and Black Americans — support gymnast Simone Biles in her decision to withdraw from some of the Tokyo competitions to protect her mental health, our latest Axios/Momentive Olympics poll found.

The big picture: Biles unexpectedly sparked awareness around Olympians' struggles with media coverage and intense pressure to perform and win. Survey respondents by a nearly two-to-one margin said they believe Olympic athletes’ mental health issues are not taken seriously.

  • Majorities across all age groups and political affiliations shared that view.
  • More findings this poll will be featured in an Axios deep dive on the Olympics this afternoon.

What they're saying: Momentive's Laura Wronski said Biles entered Tokyo "under a brighter spotlight than perhaps any other American athlete."

  • The findings show that her unexpected withdrawal from much of the competition "effectively redirected that attention away from the medal count and onto the sometimes taboo topic of mental health."

By the numbers: 62% of Americans say they supported Biles' decision (51% "strongly"), while just 13% opposed it and another 22% said they didn't know enough about the situation to render judgment.

  • 70% of Black respondents, 67% of women and 57% of men supported Biles.
  • She found support from four in five Democrats and half of Republicans.

On the broader question of Olympic athletes' mental health, Americans overwhelmingly said it's not taken seriously, 61% to 33%.

  • More women than men held that view (66% vs 55%). Younger Americans were more likely than middle-aged respondents or seniors to say mental health was being taken seriously.

Methodology: These data are from an Axios|Momentive online poll conducted Aug. 2-4 among 2,875 adults ages 18 and older in the United States. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the Momentive platform each day.

  • Data have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over. The modeled error estimate is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
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