Baseball Fan Base Near Recent Low

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Forty-three percent of Americans identify as baseball fans

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The percentage of Americans identifying themselves as baseball fans is near the low of what Gallup has measured since 1993. Moreover, baseball fans say they are no more enthusiastic about the new season than about prior seasons. Americans who consider themselves fans cite their overall enjoyment of the game, the warm weather associated with the sport, and the history of the game as their top likes about the sport. Those who are not fans say baseball is boring, too slow, and that they dislike the players' inflated salaries. Fans tab the New York Yankees as the favorite to win the World Series this year.

Baseball Fans

According to a March USA Today/Gallup poll, 43% of Americans identify themselves as baseball fans. That is low by recent standards, as an average of 49% of Americans have said they were fans of the sport since Gallup started tracking this measure in 1993. The high point came in 1998, when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire pursued (and ultimately surpassed) Roger Maris' single-season home run record, at which time 56% of Americans considered themselves baseball fans.

In fact, the 43% of Americans calling themselves baseball fans in the most recent poll is one of the lowest single measurements Gallup has obtained since 1993. The only lower measurements were 41% and 42% readings in 1995, on the heels of the last players' strike, and a pair of 41% readings last year.

While the percentage of Americans identifying as fans is higher for baseball than for any other sport except football, since the beginning of the decade, basketball has typically edged out baseball for second place when Americans are asked to name their favorite sport to watch.

Favorite Sport to Watch, Gallup Polls, 2000-2006


2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Football

33

28

37

37

37

34

43

Basketball

16

16

13

14

13

12

12

Baseball

13

12

12

10

10

12

11

To gain further insight into Americans' affinity (or lack thereof) to baseball, the latest Gallup Panel survey asked baseball fans what they like about the game, and non-fans what they dislike about it.

A basic enjoyment of the game is one of the main reasons people consider themselves fans -- 18% say they enjoy the sport and that it is fun to watch, 10% mention "the game itself," and 9% say it is entertaining.

Beyond these very basic and admittedly vague reasons for liking baseball, fans provide some more specific reasons as to why they are fans.

The sport's spring and summer schedule is an important factor in fans' attraction to baseball, as 14% cite their enjoyment of going to the games outdoors as a reason for liking the sport.

Baseball has always prided itself on its long history, and 13% of fans mention the game's history and tradition as what they like about the sport.

The teams themselves are another factor that draws fans to the game -- 7% say they like the rivalries in the game, and 6% enjoy supporting their favorite team.

Full results of the question are shown in the accompanying table.

What are some of the things you like about baseball? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON BASEBALL FANS

 

2007 Mar 26-29

%

Enjoy baseball/Fun to watch

18

Like to go to games/Outdoors/Enjoyable weather

14

History/Tradition/America's favorite pastime

13

The game/sport itself (non-specific)

10

Entertaining

9

Competitive nature of the game/Rivalries

7

Team sport/Lot of teamwork

7

Appreciate players' skills

7

Supporting/Rooting for favorite baseball team

6

Family-oriented sport

6

Pace of the game/Time involved

5

Excitement of the game

4

Play the sport/Involved in the sport

4

It's relaxing

4

The playoffs/World Series

3

Easy to understand

3

Like the home run hitters/the hitting

2

Like the stadiums/fields

2

Food and drinks

1

Affordable to go to games

*

 

Other

13

Everything

2

Nothing in particular

2

No opinion

1

* Less than 0.5%

NOTE: Percentages add to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

Baseball is the only major team sport that does not use a clock to time play. It also does not have the constant player movement that characterizes other team sports such as basketball, hockey, and soccer. While these factors make baseball unique, they may be major reasons why many Americans are not fans of the sport.

Specifically, the most common reason non-fans give for disliking baseball is that it is "boring" or "uninteresting," a sentiment expressed by 31% of non-fans. Twenty-one percent say the games are "too long" or "too slow," something the sport has tried to address in recent years.

Two of the largest controversies surrounding the sport -- the explosion of player salaries and the suspected steroid use by some of its biggest stars (including McGwire, Sosa, and likely future career home run leader Barry Bonds) -- also come through in the comments. Fourteen percent of non-fans mention the inflated player salaries and 5% mention steroid use as reasons they dislike baseball.

What are some of the things you dislike about baseball? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON BASEBALL NON-FANS

2007 Mar 26-29

%

Boring/Uninteresting

31

Games are too long/too slow

21

Inflated salaries/Overpaid players

14

Just don't like it/Don't watch it

8

Steroid/Drug use by players

5

It is too commercialized/Big business

4

Behavior/Attitude of the players

3

Costs too much to go to games

3

Unfamiliar with the game/Don't understand it

2

Season is too long

1

Past players' strikes turned me off to the game

1

Would rather play the game

1

 

Other

6

Everything

*

Nothing in particular

16

No opinion

1

* Less than 0.5%

NOTE: Percentages add to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

Enthusiasm About the New Season

Most baseball fans eagerly await the beginning of each new season. However, the recent USA Today/Gallup poll finds fans are no more excited about the 2007 season than they have been about prior seasons. While half of baseball fans polled say they are just as enthusiastic about this season, a greater percentage say they are less enthusiastic (30%) than say they are more enthusiastic (18%).

The panel survey asked fans to predict which team they think will win the World Series this year. The clear favorite is the New York Yankees, chosen by 25% of fans. The Yankees -- who have won more World Series than any other team -- are usually among the top contenders each year, in part because they usually outspend every other team on player salaries by a wide margin. This year, the Yankees are spending $47 million more on player salaries than the second-highest-spending team, the Boston Red Sox.

Nine percent of fans view the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals as the favorite to win the World Series, the same percentage who choose the Red Sox. At least 5% of fans view the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, and Chicago White Sox as the leading contender.

Baseball fans are thought to be very optimistic as each season gets underway. The poll bears this out in two respects. First, 3% believe the long-suffering Chicago Cubs will win the World Series, something they have not done since 1908. Second, all but three teams (the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Washington Nationals) were mentioned as World Series favorites by at least one fan in the poll.

The major league baseball season is getting under way. Which team do you think will win the World Series this year? [OPEN-ENDED]

BASED ON PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL FANS

2007 Mar 26-29

%

New York Yankees

25

St. Louis Cardinals

9

Boston Red Sox

9

Atlanta Braves

6

New York Mets

5

Chicago White Sox

5

Detroit Tigers

4

Minnesota Twins

3

Chicago Cubs

3

Philadelphia Phillies

3

Houston Astros

2

Oakland A's

2

Los Angeles Dodgers

2

Cleveland Indians

2

Seattle Mariners

1

Texas Rangers

1

San Francisco Giants

1

Arizona Diamondbacks

1

San Diego Padres

1

Pittsburgh Pirates

1

Milwaukee Brewers

1

Colorado Rockies

*

Cincinnati Reds

*

Los Angeles Angels

*

Baltimore Orioles

*

Kansas City Royals

*

Florida Marlins

*

 

Other

*

No opinion

12

 

* Less than 0.5%

NOTE: Percentages add to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,007 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 23-25, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 433 baseball fans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

Results for the Gallup Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 26-29, 2007. Gallup Panel members are recruited through random selection methods. The panel is weighted so that it is demographically representative of the U.S. adult population. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 432 baseball fans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 568 non-fans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 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.

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

 

Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN
(vol.)

No,
not a fan

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Mar 23-25

36

7

56

*

2006 Dec 8-10

35

6

59

*

2006 Sep 15-17

37

9

54

--

2006 Jul 21-23

40

12

48

*

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 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 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

--

2000 May 5-7

35

11

54

--

2000 Apr 28-30

40

12

48

--

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

--

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) = Volunteered response

41. (Asked of baseball fans) Compared to previous baseball seasons, are you more enthusiastic, less enthusiastic, or as enthusiastic about the upcoming season?

 

More
enthusiastic

Less
enthusiastic

As
enthusiastic

No
opinion

2007 Mar 23-25

18%

30

50

2

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