Only 8% of Baseball Fans Regard Bonds as Greatest Home Run Hitter

by Jeffrey M. Jones

One-third says they would consider him the best if he breaks home run record

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Barry Bonds hit his 747th career home run on Monday, leaving him just nine short of surpassing Hank Aaron's Major League Baseball record of 755. Despite Bonds' run on the record, the majority of baseball fans still regard either Aaron or Babe Ruth as the greatest home run hitter in baseball history, with less than 1 in 10 according this distinction to Bonds. About one-third of fans, however, say they would re-assess their view if Bonds breaks the record.

Though most fans believe the controversial Bonds has used steroids during his playing career, they still think he should be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and think baseball commissioner Bud Selig should be present if Bonds breaks Aaron's record. And, if Bonds finishes his career as baseball's all-time home run leader, the vast majority of fans say they would like to see Alex Rodriguez overtake Bonds as the career home run leader some day.

The USA Today/Gallup poll of 469 baseball fans nationwide was conducted May 4-6, 2007.

When fans were asked whom they regard as the greatest home run hitter in baseball history, the results show a two-man contest between Aaron (36%) and the player whose career home run record he surpassed in 1974, Babe Ruth (33%). Just 8% mention Bonds. No other player receives more than 3% of all mentions.

(Asked of professional baseball fans) Who do you consider to be the greatest home run hitter in the history of Major League Baseball? (OPEN-ENDED)

 

 

%

Hank Aaron

36

Babe Ruth

33

Barry Bonds

8

Mark McGwire

3

Mickey Mantle

2

Sammy Sosa

1

Willie Mays

1

Ted Williams

1

Albert Pujols

1

Roger Maris

*

   

Other

5

None

*

No opinion

9

* = Less than 0.5%

Should Bonds break Aaron's record, many baseball fans -- though well short of a majority -- are prepared to reconsider their assessment. Thirty-four percent of all baseball fans say they would rate Bonds the greatest home run hitter should he surpass Aaron's career mark; 62% say they would not. Roughly one in four fans who currently think Aaron is the top slugger say they would change their opinion, as would one in four fans who think now Ruth is the greatest home run hitter.

Never known for his sunny disposition, Bonds has become more controversial in recent years as he has bulked up and swatted home runs at an increasing pace at an age when other players' skills begin to diminish. Bonds has also been at the center of an investigation into illegal steroid use in baseball.

Perhaps as a result of the controversy surrounding Bonds, Aaron has publicly stated that he will not be present if and when Bonds hits his 756th home run. Selig has been less decisive, and still has not announced whether he will or will not be present. Most baseball fans say that Selig should be in attendance when the record is broken, by a 54% to 29% margin (17% of fans have no opinion).

The vast majority of baseball fans, 72%, believe Bonds has used illegal steroids during his career, while 17% think he has not done so. In an investigation of a lab suspected of supplying illegal steroids to athletes, Bonds testified that he unknowingly used steroids when he mistook a steroid cream for a legal substance. Bonds is under grand jury investigation for perjury.

Baseball fans are not holding Bonds' suspected steroid use against him when it comes to his consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sixty-two percent of fans believe Bonds should be elected when he is eligible, 33% say he should not. This includes a majority, 53%, of fans who believe Bonds used steroids.

The greater than 6 in 10 fans who believe Bonds deserves a place in the Hall of Fame represents an increase from last year, when two separate polls showed less than half of baseball fans thought Bonds should be enshrined.

But baseball fans' support for Bonds only goes so far. The vast majority of fans, 73%, say they would like to see New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez eventually surpass Bonds' would-be record for career home runs. Rodriguez, who is just 31 years old, will likely surpass the 500-home run mark this season. At his current home run hitting pace, Rodriguez would approach the 800 career home run mark in another seven or eight seasons.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 469 baseball fans, aged 18 and older, conducted May 4-6, 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 ±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.

THE FOLLOWING TABLES ARE BASED ON 469 PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL FANS

32. (Asked of professional baseball fans) Who do you consider to be the greatest home run hitter in the history of Major League Baseball? (OPEN-ENDED)

 

 

2007 May 4-6

 

%

Hank Aaron

36

Babe Ruth

33

Barry Bonds

8

Mark McGwire

3

Mickey Mantle

2

Sammy Sosa

1

Willie Mays

1

Ted Williams

1

Albert Pujols

1

Roger Maris

*

   

Other

5

None

*

No opinion

9

* = Less than 0.5%

33. (Asked of professional baseball fans) If Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's record for most career home runs, would you consider Barry Bonds to be the greatest home run hitter in the history of Major League Baseball, or not?

 

 

Yes, would

No, would not

No opinion

       

2007 May 4-6

34%

62

4

34. (Asked of professional baseball fans) Do you think Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig should or should not be present when Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's career home run record?

 

 

Yes, should

No, should not

No opinion

       

2007 May 4-6

54%

29

17

35. (Asked of professional baseball fans) If Barry Bonds retires with the record for most career home runs, would you like to see Alex Rodriguez break that record in the future, or not?

 

 

Yes, would

No, would not

No opinion

       

2007 May 4-6

73%

18

9

36. (Asked of professional baseball fans) Just your best guess, do you think Barry Bonds has -- or has not – used illegal steroids while playing Major League Baseball?

 

Yes, has

No, has not

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2007 May 4-6

72

17

11

       

2006 Apr 7-9

78

12

11

2005 Mar 18-20 ^

75

14

11

       

^ Asked in rotation with Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero.

37. (Asked of professional baseball fans) Do you think Barry Bonds should or should not be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

 

 

Yes, should

No, should not

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2007 May 4-6

62

33

5

       

2006 Dec 8-10 ^

48

44

9

2006 Mar 10-12

49

43

7

2005 Aug 5-7 ^

57

34

9

       

^ Asked in a rotation with other baseball players.

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