Yankees Are America's Favorite Baseball Team

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Baseball ranks as America's third favorite sport behind football and basketball

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The New York Yankees are America's favorite baseball team, according to the latest Gallup poll, conducted March 26-28. The poll also shows baseball ranks as America's third favorite sport to watch, following football and basketball, but that more Americans consider themselves "fans" of baseball than of any other sport except football. Babe Ruth, the Hall of Fame Yankee slugger of the 1920s and 1930s, is far and away recognized by Americans as the greatest baseball player of all time. And, as the new major-league baseball season gets underway in earnest today, sports fans generally think that most of the recent changes to the game of baseball have been for the better -- with the notable exception of the tremendous increase in player salaries, which is seen by the majority of fans as a change for the worse.

The Yankee Dynasty
The New York Yankees, looking for a fourth consecutive World Series title, are the number-one baseball team in the nation, based on fan preferences. Fifteen percent of sports fans name the Yankees as their favorite, with the Atlanta Braves coming in second at 11%. Several teams trail the Yankees and Braves at some distance, including the Boston Red Sox (5%), St. Louis Cardinals (5%), New York Mets (4%), Los Angeles Dodgers (4%) and Chicago Cubs (4%). Gallup last asked this question in February 1990, and at that point there was no clear favorite. The Yankees, Mets and Cubs tied for first with 7% each, with the Red Sox, Cardinals and Dodgers all coming in at 6%.

As one would expect, favorite baseball teams vary considerably by region, but the "Bronx Bombers" are among the top teams in all parts of the country. In the East, the Yankees are the clear favorite, named by 31%, followed by the Red Sox at 17%, and the Mets at 11%. In the Midwest, there is far less consensus. Most name the Chicago Cubs as their favorite team (12%), but the Cardinals (11%), Cleveland Indians (10%) and Chicago White Sox (9%) are also mentioned frequently, along with the Yankees (9%). In the South, the Braves are far and away the top team at 27%, followed by the Yankees (13%) and Texas Rangers (10%). The Dodgers are the favorite team out West, mentioned by 15%, followed by the Yankees (9%) and Colorado Rockies (8%).

The fact that the Yankees are the favorite team is not surprising since they are by far the most successful franchise in baseball history and have dominated the sport in the last several years, winning the last three, and four of the last five, World Series. Several national sports publications have questioned whether such dominance is good for the sport. Gallup asked the public whether the fact that the Yankees have won the World Series three years in a row has lessened their interest in big-league baseball. About in one in five said it has, but the overwhelming majority of Americans -- 75% -- say it has not. These numbers are very similar to those from a 1938 Gallup poll -- another point in history at which the Yankees had won three straight titles -- when just 14% said the Yankees' dominance was lessening their interest in big-league baseball.

Fans Overwhelmingly Support Idea of Salary Cap
Without a doubt, one of the reasons for the Yankees' continued success is that they have traditionally had one of the highest payrolls in the game. Baseball, unlike football and basketball, does not limit how much teams can spend on players. The result has been that teams in smaller markets spend far less money on players than the Yankees (and other larger-market teams) do, putting them at what many believe is a severe competitive disadvantage. The vast majority of baseball fans -- 79% -- think that major-league baseball owners should be allowed to put a cap on the total amount of money available for players' salaries. These numbers have increased since a 1995 CBS/New York Times poll showed that 69% of those interested in baseball supported the idea of a salary cap.

The high level of support for the salary cap is not surprising given that 56% of sports fans think the increases in average salaries paid to players are a "change for the worse" in the game of baseball, while only 21% think they have been a change for the better. However, fans believe that most of the other recent significant changes in the game have been for the better. A strong majority of sports fans -- 68% -- think that having playoffs in each league to determine who goes to the World Series is a change for the better. (Playoffs were instituted in 1969 and expanded in 1995.) A majority of sports fans also think each of the following changes to the game has been for the better: the addition of a wild-card playoff team in each league (54%), interleague play (53%), and the increased number of teams in baseball (53%). Fans are more evenly divided as to whether the designated hitter rule used by the American League has improved the game -- 37% think it has been a change for the better, 21% think it has been for the worse, and 25% think it has made no difference.

Babe Ruth Still Regarded as Greatest Player of All Time
While the game of baseball has undergone many changes over the years, one thing that has not changed is the recognition of Babe Ruth as the greatest player of all time. The latest poll shows 32% of Americans according Ruth this honor, in line with previous readings in 1999 (31%) and 1990 (32%). Back in 1949, an even larger percentage (53%) of Americans cited Ruth as the greatest player of all time. Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron, who enjoyed their greatest success in the 1950s and 1960s, place second behind Ruth in the latest poll, with 6% each. Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson are next with 4% each. Mark McGwire (at 3%) is the top active player on the list.

There are not great differences by age among Americans, as Babe Ruth is viewed as the greatest player by all age groups. Those between the ages of 50 and 64 are slightly more likely to say that Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron is the greatest player of all time.

Baseball Rates as America's Third Favorite Sport to Watch
Fifty-six percent of Americans say they are fans of professional baseball, second only to professional football (63%). The following table shows the percentage of Americans who say they are fans of each sport tested in this survey:

 

2001 Mar 26-28
(sorted by "total fans")

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)

Total fans

Professional football

54

9

63

Professional baseball

46

10

56

College football

44

9

53

Figure skating

40

10

50

College basketball

38

9

47

Professional basketball

36

8

44

Auto racing

31

8

39

Professional golf

27

9

36

Professional ice hockey

24

7

31

Professional tennis

19

9

28

Professional wrestling

12

3

15



Baseball has made a recovery of sorts from the mid-1990s, when strikes cut into the 1994 and 1995 seasons. During that time, less than a majority of Americans said they were fans of baseball. However, the percentage of baseball fans was higher in the fall of 1998 -- when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both topped Roger Maris' long-standing record of 61 home runs in a season -- than it is now. At that time, more than six in 10 Americans said they were fans of baseball.

When asked to name their favorite sport to watch, 12% of Americans say baseball, which places it third behind football (28%) and basketball (16%). Football has been Americans' favorite sport in response to this question for some time, at least back to 1972. Gallup polls conducted in 1937, 1948 and 1960 all showed baseball as the top sport, at about the same level of popularity that football has now.

Survey Methods

The results reported here are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,024 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 26-28, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Which is your favorite major-league baseball team? [Open-ended]

 

BASED ON -- 726 -- INTERESTED IN FOLLOWING SPORTS; ±4 PCT. PTS.

 

 

2001 Mar 26-28

1990 Feb 15-18

 

%

%

     

New York Yankees

15

7

Atlanta Braves

11

3

Boston Red Sox

5

6

St. Louis Cardinals

5

6

New York Mets

4

7

Los Angeles Dodgers

4

6

Chicago Cubs

4

7

Texas Rangers

3

2

Cleveland Indians

3

2

Chicago White Sox

3

1

Pittsburgh Pirates

3

2

Detroit Tigers

3

4

Cincinnati Reds

2

4

Philadelphia Phillies

2

2

Colorado Rockies

2

--

Oakland Athletics

2

3

Baltimore Orioles

2

2

San Francisco Giants

2

4

Minnesota Twins

2

3

Kansas City Royals

2

2

Seattle Mariners

1

1

Milwaukee Brewers

1

3

Anaheim Angels

1

2

Houston Astros

1

1

Arizona Diamondbacks

1

--

San Diego Padres

*

*

Florida Marlins

*

--

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

*

--

Montreal Expos

*

*

Toronto Blue Jays

0

*

     

None

12

18

No opinion

4

3



Has the fact that the Yankees have won the World Series three years straight lessened your interest in big-league baseball?

BASED ON -- 484 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Yes

No

No opinion

       

2001 Mar 26-28

19%

75

6

       

1938 Oct 19-24

14%

54

32



Has the fact that the Yankees have won the World Series three years straight increased your interest in big-league baseball, decreased your interest, or has it had no effect?

BASED ON -- 540 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

Increased

Decreased

No effect

No opinion

         

2001 Mar 26-28

10%

11

78

1



Do you think the owners of major-league baseball teams should be allowed to put a "cap" on the total amount of money available for players' salaries, or shouldn't they be able to do that?

 

BASED ON -- 726 -- INTERESTED IN FOLLOWING SPORTS; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

 


Yes, should


No, should not


DEPENDS (vol.)


No opinion

         

National Adults

       

2001 Mar 26-28

77%

17

1

5

         

1995 Feb 22-25 ^

69%

24

2

5

         

Baseball Fans

       

2001 Mar 26-28

79%

17

*

4

         

^

CBS/NY Times Poll; based on 44% of the sample who were interested in baseball.



I am going to name some changes major-league baseball has seen over the past 20 or 30 years and want you to tell me whether you think each has been a change for the better, a change for the worse, or not made a difference. How about [RANDOM ORDER]?

 

BASED ON -- 726 -- INTERESTED IN FOLLOWING SPORTS; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

A. The increases in the number of major league teams

 

 

 

Better

Worse

No difference

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National Adults

       

2001 Mar 26-28

53

18

22

7

         

1999 Jul 13-14

52

16

24

8

1990 Feb 15-18

65

11

16

8

         

Baseball Fans

       

2001 Mar 26-28

57

18

21

4



 

 

B. The increases in the average salary paid to players

 

 

Better

Worse

No difference

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National Adults

       

2001 Mar 26-28

21

56

18

5

         

1990 Feb 15-18

26

53

15

6

         

Baseball Fans

       

2001 Mar 26-28

22

58

16

4



 

 

C. The designated hitter rule in the American League

 

 

Better

Worse

No difference

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National Adults

       

2001 Mar 26-28

37

21

25

17

         

1999 Jul 13-14

31

19

29

21

1990 Feb 15-18

36

26

20

18

         

Baseball Fans

       

2001 Mar 26-28

42

24

21

13



 

 

D. Playoffs in each league to determine who goes to the World Series

 

 

Better

Worse

No difference

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National Adults

       

2001 Mar 26-28

68

5

21

6

         

1990 Feb 15-18

65

8

20

7

         

Baseball Fans

       

2001 Mar 26-28

72

6

19

3



 

 

E. The addition of a wild-card playoff team in each league

 

 

Better

Worse

No difference

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National Adults

       

2001 Mar 26-28

54

13

21

12

         

Baseball Fans

       

2001 Mar 26-28

58

15

19

8



 

 

F. Interleague play

 

Better

Worse

No difference

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National Adults

       

2001 Mar 26-28

53

6

25

16

         

Baseball Fans

       

2001 Mar 26-28

60

6

23

11



Who would you say is the greatest baseball player of all time? [Open-ended]

 

 

2001 Mar

1999 Mar

1990 Apr ^

1949 Sep †

 

%

%

%

%

         

Babe Ruth

32

31

32

53

Mickey Mantle

6

7

5

--

Hank Aaron

6

3

5

--

Joe DiMaggio

4

18

4

--

Jackie Robinson

4

2

1

--

Mark McGwire

3

4

--

--

Lou Gehrig

3

2

3

10

Ted Williams

2

2

3

--

Nolan Ryan

2

--

--

--

Willie Mays

2

3

4

--

Pete Rose

2

1

3

--

Ty Cobb

2

2

2

11

Stan Musial

1

--

--

--

Roberto Clemente

1

--

--

--

Cal Ripken Jr.

1

1

--

--

Sammy Sosa

1

1

--

--

Satchel Paige

1

--

--

--

Ken Griffey Jr.

*

*

--

--

Honus Wagner

--

--

--

1

Walter Johnson

--

--

--

1

Christy Mathewson

--

--

--

1

Carl Hubbell

--

--

--

1

Dizzy Dean

--

--

--

*

         

Other

7

9

--

19

No opinion

20

14

26

3

         

^ Only top 10 list displayed

† Based on those who follow baseball (51%)



SPORTS FAN TRENDS

A. Professional baseball

 

 


Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT OF A FAN (vol.)


No, not a fan


No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

         

2001 Mar 26-28

46

10

44

*

         

2000 May 5-7

35

11

54

--

2000 Apr 28-30

40

12

48

--

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

45

10

45

--

1999 Nov 18-21

45

16

39

--

1999 Oct 21-24

37

10

53

--

1999 Jul 13-14

40

19

41

--

1999 Mar 19-21

34

15

51

--

1998 Oct 9-12

47

14

39

--

1998 Sep 14-15

45

18

37

--

1998 Jun 22-23

34

10

56

--

1996 Mar 15-17

38

10

52

--

1995 Oct 5-7

34

8

58

--

1995 Jul 7-9

35

13

52

--

1995 May 11-14

35

10

55

--

1995 Apr 17-19

32

9

59

--

1995 Feb 24-26

37

12

51

--

1995 Jan 16-18

37

8

55

--

1994 Oct 17-19

39

9

52

--

1994 Sep 6-7

35

11

54

--

1994 Aug 15-16

39

10

51

--

1994 Aug 8-9

35

20

45

--

1993 May 21-23

39

10

51

--

1993 Feb 12-14

44

7

49

--



B. Professional football

 

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT OF A FAN (vol.)

No, not a fan

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2001 Mar 26-28

54

9

37

*

2001 Mar 9-11

48

14

38

*

2001 Jan 15-16

44

14

42

*

2000 Aug 24-27

42

12

46

*

1999 Mar 5-7

47

9

44

0

1999 Jan 22-24

51

10

39

*

1998 Jan 16-18

45

11

43

1



C. Professional basketball

 

 


Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT OF A FAN (vol.)


No, not a fan


No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

         

2001 Mar 26-28

36

8

55

1

         

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

38

8

54

--

1999 Jan 15-17

31

11

58

--

1999 Jan 6

29

12

59

--

1998 Oct 9-12

36

10

54

--

1994 Mar 11-13

32

11

57

--



D. Professional ice hockey

 

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)

No, not a fan



No opinion

2001 Mar 26-28

24%

7

69

*



E. College football^

 

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)

No, not a fan

No opinion

%

%

%

%

2001 Mar 26-28

44

9

46

1

2000 Nov 13-15

41

6

53

*

2000 Aug 24-27

32

10

58

*

1999 Oct 21-24

36

10

54

*

^ Asked Jan 6-8, 1994: "Are you a college football fan, or not?" Yes = 48%; No = 52%

† Asked Dec 4-6, 1993: "Are you a college football fan, or not?" Yes = 43%; No = 57%



F. College basketball

 

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)

No, not a fan



No opinion

2001 Mar 26-28

38%

9

52

1



G. Professional golf

 


Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)


No, not a fan

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

         

2001 Mar 26-28

27

9

64

*

         

2001 Feb 9-11

26

5

69

*

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

26

8

66

*



H. Professional tennis

 

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)

No, not a fan



No opinion

2001 Mar 26-28

19%

9

71

1



I. Auto racing

 

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)

No, not a fan



No opinion

2001 Mar 26-28

31%

8

61

*



J. Figure skating

 

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)

No, not a fan



No opinion

2001 Mar 26-28

40%

10

50

*



K. Professional wrestling

 


Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)


No, not a fan

No
opinion

         

2001 Mar 26-28

12%

3

85

*

         

1999 Aug 16-18 ^

12%

6

82

*

         

^

WORDING: Now thinking about World Championship Wrestling, the World Wrestling Federation and other professional wrestling that you may see on TV, are you a fan of professional wrestling, or not?



What is your favorite sport to watch?

 

 

2001 Mar

2000 Mar

1998 Nov

1997 Apr ^

1995 Apr

1994 Sep

1994 Aug

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

               

Football

28

33

36

30

32

37

35

Basketball

16

16

12

17

15

13

11

Baseball

12

13

16

14

16

16

21

Auto Racing

6

5

3

7

2

2

2

Golf

4

5

3

5

4

3

3

Ice/Figure skating

4

4

2

2

2

3

3

Ice hockey

3

5

3

3

3

1

3

Soccer

2

2

2

2

1

2

2

Tennis

2

1

2

2

2

3

2

Boxing

2

2

1

2

1

1

1

Gymnastics

1

1

1

1

0

0

*

Motocross

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

Wrestling

1

1

1

1

1

*

1

Volleyball

1

--

--

--

--

--

--

Bowling

*

*

1

*

1

*

*

Fishing

*

*

1

*

1

*

*

Swimming

*

*

--

--

--

--

--

Horse Racing

--

--

*

1

0

0

*

               

Other

4

3

6

6

7

5

5

None

12

8

9

6

10

12

10

No Opinion

1

1

1

1

2

2

1

 

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

 

^

WORDING: What is your favorite sport to follow?



LONG-TERM TREND

 

 

Football

Baseball

Basketball

Auto racing

Golf

 

%

%

%

%

%

           

2001 Mar 26-28

28

12

16

6

4

           

2000 Mar 30-Apr 2

33

13

15

5

5

1998 Nov 20-22

36

16

12

3

3

1997 Apr 18-20 ^

30

14

17

7

5

1995 Apr 17-19

32

16

15

2

4

1994 Sep 16-20

37

16

13

2

3

1994 Aug 8-9

35

21

11

2

3

1992 Sept

38

16

12

2

3

1990 Feb

35

16

15

1

2

1981

38

16

9

1

2

1972

36

21

8

2

2

1960

21

34

9

--

1

1948

17

39

10

--

--

1937 Mar

23

34

8

1

1

           

^

WORDING: What is your favorite sport to follow?



(vol.) Volunteered response
* Less than 0.5%

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/1840/Yankees-Americas-Favorite-Baseball-Team.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030