Majority of Baseball Fans Think McGwire Should Be Elected to Hall of Fame

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Most think he should not be elected in 2007, however

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A majority of baseball fans think Mark McGwire should be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, although only a relatively small minority believes he should be elected in 2007, the first year he is eligible. Baseball fans are near unanimous in their support for Cal Ripken, Jr.'s, Hall of Fame candidacy, and a majority also believes Tony Gwynn, Jim Rice, and Rich "Goose" Gossage should be enshrined. While a majority also back Sammy Sosa, he, along with McGwire, generates opposition from about one-third of fans. Fewer than half of fans believe Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, or Jose Canseco should be inducted. 

Baseball fans often argue about which players do and do not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, an honor reserved for the game's greatest players. But the arguments will take on added significance next month when Mark McGwire becomes eligible for election. McGwire, along with Bonds, Sosa, and Palmeiro, all generated impressive hitting statistics during their careers and rank among the greatest home run hitters of all time. But these three modern-day sluggers are all suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs to help boost their numbers. That suspicion casts doubt on whether they deserve to be honored among baseball's greatest players, something there would be little question about otherwise.  

A Dec. 8-10, 2006 USA Today/Gallup poll asked a nationally representative sample of baseball fans, roughly 40% of the adult population, about the Hall of Fame candidacies of these players as well as other former baseball stars.

(Asked of professional baseball fans) For each of the following former baseball players, please say whether you think he should or should not be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? [RANDOM ORDER]

2006 Dec 8-10
(sorted by "yes, should")

Should,
all baseball fans

Should not,
all baseball
fans

Should,
baseball fans
with an opinion

%

%

%

Cal Ripken, Jr.

86

3

97

Sammy Sosa

63

31

67

Tony Gwynn

58

11

84

Mark McGwire

57

35

62

Rich "Goose" Gossage

55

14

80

Jim Rice

53

13

80

Jose Canseco

48

40

55

Barry Bonds

48

44

52

Rafael Palmeiro

40

38

51

In regards to McGwire, the poll shows that 57% of baseball fans believe he should be elected to the Hall of Fame, while 35% say he should not. However, when probing further, only 23% of baseball fans -- including a minority of those who think he deserves election -- said that McGwire should be elected when he is first eligible. That is an honor few baseball players have achieved, and is usually reserved for the strongest candidates. McGwire would almost certainly be a "first ballot" Hall of Famer without the steroid suspicions, but some believe the Hall of Fame voters may be reluctant to vote for McGwire because of the suspicions. 

Former Baltimore Oriole infielder Cal Ripken, Jr., best known for playing in 2,632 consecutive games, receives the greatest support of the players tested in the poll, with 86% of fans saying he should be in the Hall of Fame. 

A majority of fans, 58%, also say former San Diego Padre outfielder Tony Gwynn, one of the top hitters during the 1980s and 1990s, should be elected. Gwynn, like Ripken, is considered a lock for election in 2007, the first year both are eligible. Many fans are apparently unfamiliar with Gwynn, as 32% do not have an opinion about his candidacy. Among fans with an opinion about him, an overwhelming 84% think he should be elected to the Hall of Fame. 

Former relief pitcher Rich "Goose" Gossage and former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice have been eligible before, and both narrowly missed election last year. A majority of fans think both should be in the Hall of Fame, including 8 in 10 of those who have an opinion about their credentials.  

Among the game's recent top power hitters, only Sosa (63%) and McGwire (57%) receive majority Hall of Fame support from baseball fans. Slightly fewer than half endorse Bonds' (48%) or Canseco's (48%) election, and fewer still do the same for Palmeiro (40%). There is substantial opposition to all of these players' candidacies -- as at least 3 in 10 baseball fans think these players should not be in the Hall of Fame. 

To put this in perspective, Rice, who hit 382 home runs during the 1970s and 1980s, is believed to be Hall of Fame worthy by 80% of fans who are familiar with him. But far fewer who are able to rate Sosa (67%), McGwire (62%), Canseco (55%), Bonds (52%), and Palmeiro (51%), believe they should be in the Hall of Fame, even though they all hit many more home runs than Rice.

Canseco joins his former teammate McGwire, whom he accused of using steroids in a recent book, as being eligible for election to the Hall of Fame this year. Hall of Fame rules require a player be retired for five years before becoming eligible for election. Bonds is still an active player and Palmeiro and Sosa last played in 2005 and will be eligible in 2011. 

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 8-10, 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±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.

For results based on the 505 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 504 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 423 professional baseball fans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

28. Are you a fan of professional baseball, or not?

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN
(vol.)

No,
not a fan

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10

35

6

59

*

2006 Sep 15-17

37

9

54

--

2006 Jul 21-23

40

12

48

*

2006 Jun 9-11

47

9

43

*

2006 Apr 7-9

33

8

58

*

2006 Mar 10-12

37

10

53

--

2005 Dec 9-11

36

11

53

*

2005 Aug 5-7

37

10

53

*

2005 Mar 18-20

39

9

52

*

2005 Jan 14-16

41

7

52

*

2004 Dec 5-8

43

9

48

*

2004 Mar 26-28

36

9

55

*

2003 Nov 14-16

43

8

49

*

2003 Oct 24-26

44

11

45

--

2003 Oct 10-12

42

8

50

*

2003 Jun 27-29

36

10

54

*

2003 Jun 9-10

39

11

50

*

2002 Nov 8-10

38

13

49

*

2002 Aug 19-21

37

8

54

1

2002 Jul 26-28

37

10

53

*

2002 Jun 7-8

36

16

48

--

2002 Mar 22-24

44

10

46

*

2002 Jan 11-14

36

11

53

*

2001 Nov 26-27

38

10

52

*

2001 Nov 2-4

45

11

44

*

2001 Jun 8-10

35

14

51

--

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

--

(vol.) = Volunteered response

* = Less than 0.5%

29. (Asked of professional baseball fans:) For each of the following former baseball players, please say whether you think he should or should not be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame? [RANDOM ORDER]

           

BASED ON 423 PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL FANS

2006 Dec 8-10
(sorted by "yes, should")

Yes, should

No, should
not

No opinion

%

%

%

Cal Ripken, Jr.

86

3

11

Sammy Sosa

63

31

7

Tony Gwynn

58

11

32

Mark McGwire

57

35

7

Rich "Goose" Gossage

55

14

31

Jim Rice

53

13

34

Jose Canseco

48

40

12

Barry Bonds

48

44

9

Rafael Palmeiro

40

38

23

FULL TREND ON ITEMS ASKED PREVIOUSLY:

A. Mark McGwire

Yes, should

No, should
not

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10

57

35

7

 

 

 

2005 Aug 5-7

60

32

8

G. Rafael Palmeiro

Yes, should

No, should
not

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10

40

38

23

 

 

 

2005 Aug 5-7

46

40

14

H. Barry Bonds

Yes, should

No, should
not

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10

48

44

9

 

 

 

2006 Mar 10-12 ^

49

43

7

2005 Aug 5-7

57

34

9

^ = Asked as a stand alone question

I. Sammy Sosa

Yes, should

No, should
not

No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Dec 8-10

63

31

7

 

 

 

2005 Aug 5-7

59

33

8

30. (Asked of professional baseball fans who think Mark McGwire should be elected to the Hall of Fame:) Do you think Mark McGwire should be elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007, the first year he is eligible, or should he be elected in a future year?

COMBINED RESULTS (Q.29A/Q.30): BASED ON 423 PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL FANS

2006 Dec 8-10

%

Should be elected

57

(Elected in 2007)

(23)

(Elected in future year)

(34)

 

Should not be elected

35

 

No opinion

7

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