If the decision on where to hold the 2012 Summer Olympic Games were a popularity contest, the Tampa-Orlando, Fla., area would win hands down, according to a recent nationwide survey commissioned by Baltimore-based Eisner Communications.
That area was the favorite among 20 percent of 1,000 adult Americans who were surveyed between Sept. 8 and Sept. 10.
Among the seven other regions bidding for the Games, Baltimore-Washington tied with New York with 8 percent of the vote, above Houston, which received 6 percent. Dallas netted 11 percent, San Francisco 10 percent and Cincinnati and Los Angeles tied with 9 percent. The polls, conducted by Bruskin-Goldring Research Inc., of Edison, N.J., have a 3.5 percentage-point margin of error.
In interpreting the results, David L. Blum, a vice president at Eisner Communications, identified demographics, climate and reputation as reasons for the popularity of the Tampa-Orlando bid.
"A continuing geographical shift in the U.S. population to the Sun Belt means that more Americans than ever live in the southern part of the country, and many are simply voting for location in their home region as the most appropriate Olympic host," Blum said. "Tampa-Orlando's recognition as a vacation destination helps make it a popular favorite among general consumers as a potential Olympic site."
People already know that the Tampa-Orlando area has ample hotel rooms, because of its reputation for tourism, said Blum, whose agency is not involved with the local Olympic bid.
The Baltimore-Washington area has some factors working against its image. "There's a natural distrust of Washington," Blum said. "I think that may have some impact on people's top-of-mind ability to select these cities in a popularity contest. People have, perhaps, some concerns about what might be more difficult security issues in Washington."
Even recent television programs may have worked against the region, he said.
"It doesn't help that a lot of recent, nationally oriented programming hasn't portrayed Baltimore in the most favorable light, whether it's the television series "Homicide: Life on the Streets" or the HBO miniseries "The Corner."
A separate survey of 300 Baltimore-Washington area residents, by a Richmond, Va., research group showed that 60 percent found this area "the most appropriate" to play host to the Games.
"It's interesting," said Clarence T. Bishop, senior vice president of the Washington-Baltimore Regional 2012 Coalition, working to bring the Games here. "We would like to know more about the details of their survey - what questions were asked and what the context of the answers was. But, the decision is not a popular vote."
Instead, the decision is based largely on three key factors: a world-class technical bid proposal, broad-based community and governmental support, and demonstrated support of the amateur sports that make up the Olympics, Bishop said.
"On those three issues, we are confident that our bid is among the leaders of the pack," he said.
The coalition is required to submit its local survey as part of its bid due Dec. 15, he said. Although results of that survey are expected within weeks, it is unclear whether the United States Olympic Committee will allow them to be made public, Bishop said. The USOC is to choose a bid city in 2002. That city then enters the international competition and, three years later, the International Olympic Committee will choose a host city.
The results of the Eisner-commissioned survey are consistent with one done in January, when the Tampa-Orlando area won about 21 percent of the vote. Then, Los Angeles received 12 percent, Dallas and San Francisco 11 percent, New York 9 percent, Baltimore-Washington and Cincinnati tied for 7 percent, and Houston received 5 percent, Blum said.