The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) has done some games research - which is good, because they're some of the ones who grade videogames for age limits, putting those film-like stickers on them bearing guidance ages of 15 or 18, PG or U. Here's a list of their most recent games decisions at time of writing, it's entertaining in itself:
Snort. Go Spongebob.
Their most talked-about headline from the research is their claim that videogames are less immersive than movies, due to the interactive nature of the content, which means that players are more aware that the content is fictional in games.
My favourite is this one, presumably referring to teens:
Younger games players are influenced to play particular games by peer pressure and word of mouth, but negative press coverage for a game will significantly increase its take up;
So much for reaching out to teens with good, quality stuff: they want schlock. No change there, then.
There's an interesting escapist element to games, which boils down to control:
People play games to escape from every day life and to escape to a world of adventure without risk which is under the control of the gamer, unlike the real world;
Our need for control is fascinating.
Read the full list here. There's no detail there on how many people were polled, and there are standard responses from the girls: we play the sims and puzzle games, not so interested in violence. I'm not sure their questioning was particularly deep here - after all, racing games aren't mentioned, nor titles like Ratchet & Clank, or even Gaia Online, say. But I guess that'd be a whole other research paper...
Update: I got a download of the paper (couldn't find it anywhere on the BBFC, but it's available here) and the research is qualitative only: fewer than a 100 people polled. However, qual research is very meaty in terms of data, so you get a good story out of it. It's just a bit dangerous to extrapolate to 'everyone' as 100 folks isn't a big enough sample to be representative of, say, a country.
Also, racing is mentioned- briefly - in the paper: girls play more racing, boys play more shooting.