Baseball Fans Favor Owners If There is a Strike

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Majority of fans think there will be a strike

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- An Aug. 30 strike deadline looms for Major League Baseball players and owners. The strike would be the ninth work stoppage in baseball since 1972, and the first since the 1994-95 strike that wiped out that season's playoffs and World Series. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds that a majority of baseball fans think there will be a players' strike this season, and about one in three expect the World Series to be canceled this year as a result. When asked whose side they favor in the dispute, fans are more likely to say they take the owners' side than the players' side.

After the 1994-95 strike, the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as baseball fans declined. Though fan support more than recovered by 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa surpassed Roger Maris' 61-home run season, the numbers have fallen back to where they were prior to the last strike.

Fifty-four percent of baseball fans think there will be a strike this season, while 41% do not, according to the Aug. 19-21 poll. Among those who believe there will be a strike, about two-thirds expect that the World Series will be canceled this year. That amounts to 36% of all baseball fans expecting a strike that will lead to the cancellation of the "Fall Classic" for just the second time since 1905.

Fans More Likely to Favor Owners

While the owners and players have made progress on some issues (such as steroid testing), their positions on revenue sharing remain far apart. Under the previous labor agreement, in place since 1995, the teams with the greatest amount of revenue shared a portion of their proceeds with teams with the least revenue. This was designed to foster more competitive balance between teams as the gap between the amount spent by the richer and poorer franchises has widened in recent years. Higher revenue teams like the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves have been regular playoff participants, while lower revenue teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, and Milwaukee Brewers have gone nearly a decade without a winning season, let alone a playoff berth.

The owners want a new revenue sharing plan that takes more money from richer franchises and redistributes it to poorer franchises, which would be accomplished by instituting a "luxury tax" to penalize teams with high payrolls. While players are willing to go along with increased revenue sharing, they prefer a more limited plan that would not reduce their ability to earn what the market will bear.

In the current poll, when asked which side they favor (without mentioning the specific details of either side's position) fans were more likely to choose the owners than the players, by 43% to 30%. Another 27% expressed no opinion. These findings are similar to those measured during the 1994-95 strike, when a plurality of fans consistently favored the owners over the players.

Baseball Fans:
Which Side Do You Favor if There is a Strike?

Support for the owners' side is understandable, given that most fans believe there should be limits on player salaries. A July 26-28 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds that 67% of fans say there should be restrictions on player salaries while 30% are averse to salary limitations. There has been little change in fans' opinion on this issue over time, as a 1994 poll found 68% favoring restrictions and 29% opposing them.

Despite favoring the owners' position, a majority of fans believe that neither owners nor players care much about the fans. When asked which group was more likely to favor the interests of the fans, 53% said neither side, while 21% said the players are more concerned and 18% said the owners.

Fans' Reaction to a Strike

The Aug. 19-21 poll finds 45% of Americans identify themselves as fans of professional baseball, which is low by historical standards. The percentage of Americans who are baseball fans dropped to as few as 41% during the last strike, but was as high as 63% in September 1998, during Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's home run race.

The yearly averages of Americans identifying themselves as baseball fans demonstrates the effect of the last strike, when the percentage of fans fell from a 50% average in 1994 to 45% in 1995. It also shows that baseball more than recovered its fan base from the last strike by the 1998 season. But the increase in fan support then dissipated, falling from 56% to 49%. The current average is about where it was prior to the last strike.

Are You a Fan of Professional Baseball or Not?

The July 26-28 poll asked fans about their reaction to a possible baseball strike. It shows that a majority of fans will be affected in a negative way by the strike -- 12% say they will never watch baseball again, and 41% say they will be mad but will eventually watch baseball again. Forty-four percent of fans say they will watch baseball as soon as a work stoppage ends. The data do show that baseball probably would retain the vast majority of its fans (85% say they would watch again) following a strike, but it also may alienate a substantial proportion of its fan base at a time when it is declining, not growing.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 801 adults, 18 years and older, conducted August 19-21, 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 plus or minus 4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 388 baseball fans, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 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.

Are you a fan of professional baseball, or not?

 


Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)


No, not a fan


No opinion

%

%

%

%

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

--



Do you think there will -- or will not -- be a major league baseball players' strike this season?

BASED ON --388-- BASEBALL FANS

 

Yes, will be

No, will not be

No opinion

2002 Aug 19-21

54%

41

5



If there is a baseball strike, do you think the World Series will -- or will not -- be cancelled this year?

BASED ON --205-- BASEBALL FANS WHO THINK THERE WILL BE A STRIKE THIS SEASON

 

Yes, will be

No, will not be

No opinion

2002 Aug 19-21

67%

29

4



COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.49/Q.50)

 

2002 Aug 19-21

%

Yes, will be a baseball strike this season

54

Yes, the World Series will be cancelled this year

(36)

No, the World Series will not be cancelled this year

(16)

Unsure

(2)

No, will not be a baseball strike this season

41

No opinion

5



If there is a baseball strike, whose side do you favor, the owners or the players?

BASED ON --388-- BASEBALL FANS

 


Owners


Players

BOTH SIDES (vol.)

NEITHER SIDE (vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2002 Aug 19-21

43

30

*

23

4

1995 Apr 4 ^

27

27

5

36

5

1995 Feb 24-26 ^

38

25

4

30

3

1995 Jan 16-18 ^

50

28

2

18

2

1994 Sep 16-18 ^

43

27

4

21

5

1994 Aug 8-9

39

32

2

16

11

^

WORDING: Whose side did you favor in the baseball strike, the owners or the players?



As you may know, major league baseball's labor contract with its players has expired. If there is a work stoppage in baseball, which of the following comes closest to your reaction -- [ROTATED: you won't ever watch baseball again, you will be mad, but will eventually watch baseball again, or you will watch baseball as soon as the work stoppage is over]?

BASED ON --493-- BASEBALL FANS

 

 


Won't watch baseball again


Will be mad, but will watch again

Will watch

as soon as

stoppage is over


No
opinion

2002 Jul 26-28

12%

41

44

3

2001 Nov 2-4

4%

36

57

3



Who do you think is more concerned about the interests of major league baseball fans -- the players or the owners -- or are neither concerned?

BASED ON --493-- BASEBALL FANS

 

Players

Owners

Neither

BOTH (vol.)

No opinion

2002 Jul 26-28

21%

18

53

6

2

1998 Oct 9-12

27%

13

57

*

3

1994 Aug 8-9

24%

20

50

3

3

1994-1998 WORDING: Who do you think is more concerned about the interests of the fans -- the players or the owners -- or are neither concerned?



Do you feel major league baseball players should be able to earn whatever the market can bear or that there should be restrictions on their salaries?

BASED ON --493-- BASEBALL FANS

 

Earn whatever can bear

Should be restrictions

No opinion

2002 Jul 26-28

30%

67

3

1994 Aug 8-9

29%

68

3

1994 WORDING: Do you feel players should be able to earn whatever the market can bear or that there should be restrictions on their salaries?



* -- Less than 0.5%

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