Religion and Social Trends

Is Slow Play Hurting Baseball's Fan Appeal?

Fewer than one in three fans say games take too long

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Spring may have arrived on March 20, but for millions of Americans, spring really doesn't arrive until baseball season starts. It's the time of year when every team's fans dream of that one special season that ends with a World Series championship in October -- not of the dog days in August when the home team is 15 games out of first place and the manager is updating his resume.

While baseball remains "the national pastime," Gallup polls since the 1960s have consistently shown that more Americans consider themselves fans of professional football than consider themselves fans of baseball, though baseball typically claims the second-largest group of fans among Americans. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 54% of Americans do consider themselves to be baseball fans. This question is asked several times a year, and the percentages tend to vary during the year -- usually peaking at the start of the season and again at playoff time.

The data also confirm one point that critics of the game cite frequently -- that baseball suffers from an aging fan base. In the most recent poll, the highest percentage of fans is among Americans 50 and older (59%). In the 18-29 age group, 52% consider themselves baseball fans, as do 51% of those between the ages of 30 and 49. However, marketers may be positive about the sport's apparent appeal to higher-income Americans, with 57% of those earning at least $75,000 annually calling themselves fans. By way of comparison, just 42% of those earning less than $75,000 consider themselves fans.

Few Fans Find Game-Delaying Tactics to Be Major Annoyances

One reason that many younger Americans may not consider themselves baseball fans is the widely held perception that baseball games take too long. The March 22-24 poll shows that fans disagree, with just 29% saying games take too long. In fact, fans aged 18-29 are slightly less concerned than older fans are about the length of ball games, with 26% of the former saying games take too long. In comparison, 31% of those aged 30-49 and 29% of those 50 and older say games are too long.

However, this does not mean that fans have patience for tactics that delay the action. Forty-eight percent say the number of times batters step out of the box during an at-bat is either a major or a minor annoyance, although only 18% say it is a major annoyance. Forty-three percent say a pitcher's repeated attempts to pick off runners at first base are annoying (11% consider it a major annoyance). Finally, 42% find the length of time it takes pitchers to make a pitch irritating -- but just 11% say it is a major annoyance.

Of course, if batters are successful with those tactics and pitchers are less successful with theirs, then another potential annoyance comes into play -- 45% say they're annoyed by the length of time it takes to make pitching changes, although again, most fans find it a minor rather than a major annoyance.

Fans also find two other staples of today's baseball irritating. Fifty-one percent say the length of pre-game ceremonies is annoying, including about one out of five who say it is a major annoyance, while 41% say the breaks between innings -- usually dictated by television commercials -- are at least mildly annoying.

SUMMARY TABLE: ANNOYANCES IN BASEBALL

 


2002 Mar 22-24

(sorted by "major annoyance")


Major
annoyance


Minor
annoyance

Not an
annoyance at all

%

%

%

The length of pre-game ceremonies

21

30

47

The number of times batters step out of the batter's box

18

30

49

The amount of time it takes to make a pitching change

12

33

54

The number of throws to a base when a runner is on

11

32

55

The length of time pitchers take to make a pitch

11

31

57

The amount of time between innings

10

31

58



Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,011 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 22-24, 2002. 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 ±3 percentage points. For results based on the sample of those who describe themselves as baseball fans (557), one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±4 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 each of the following, please say whether you are a fan of that sport or not. First, [ITEMS ROTATED]?

A. Professional baseball

 


Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)


No, not a fan


No opinion

%

%

%

%

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

0

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

--

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response



Would you say that Major League Baseball games are too long, or not?

BASED ON -- 557 -- BASEBALL FANS; ±4 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Yes, too long

No, not too long

No opinion

2002 Mar 22-24

29%

69

2



For each of the following, please tell me if you find it a major annoyance, a minor annoyance, or not an annoyance at all? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON -- 557 -- BASEBALL FANS; ±5 PCT. PTS.

A. The length of time pitchers take to make a pitch

 

 

Major
annoyance

Minor
annoyance

Not an
annoyance at all

No
opinion

2002 Mar 22-24

11%

31

57

1



B. The number of times batters step out of the batter's box

 

 

Major
annoyance

Minor
annoyance

Not an
annoyance at all

No
opinion

2002 Mar 22-24

18%

30

49

3



C. The amount of time it takes to make a pitching change

 

 

Major
annoyance

Minor
annoyance

Not an
annoyance at all

No
opinion

2002 Mar 22-24

12%

33

54

1



D. The number of throws to a base when a runner is on

 

 

Major
annoyance

Minor
annoyance

Not an
annoyance at all

No
opinion

2002 Mar 22-24

11%

32

55

2



E. The amount of time between innings

 

 

Major
annoyance

Minor
annoyance

Not an
annoyance at all

No
opinion

2002 Mar 22-24

10%

31

58

1



F. The length of pre-game ceremonies

 

 

Major
annoyance

Minor
annoyance

Not an
annoyance at all

No
opinion

2002 Mar 22-24

21%

30

47

2



Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/5569/Slow-Play-Hurting-Baseballs-Fan-Appeal.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030