Fans Most Likely to Say Baseball Has Most Serious Problems

by Mark Gillespie and Jeff Jones

Revenue gap between teams seen as greatest problem

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ – Baseball's best are gathered in Chicago for tonight's All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field (formerly known as Comiskey Park). This year's "Mid-Summer Classic" is an attempt by baseball to regain some of the glory of past All-Star games, especially following the much criticized decision by Commissioner Bud Selig to declare last year's game in Milwaukee a tie when both teams ran out of pitchers.

As part of baseball's attempt to make the All-Star Game more meaningful, Selig pushed through a proposal to give the winning league in tonight's game home-field advantage in the World Series. The proposal, while controversial to many baseball purists, was just one of many changes instituted by Selig since he became commissioner in 1998. Despite Selig's efforts, which are generally rated positively by baseball fans, sports fans are most likely to say Major League Baseball has the most serious problems of the major professional sports leagues. And nearly four in 10 sports fans say baseball is currently in a state of crisis or has major problems. Nevertheless, the majority of sports fans say they are following baseball as much or more than they did three years ago.

Baseball Most Often Rated as Pro Sports League With Worst Problems

The poll, conducted June 27-29, asked sports fans which of the four major professional sports leagues "faces the most serious problems." Thirty-nine percent of sports fans say Major League Baseball, almost twice as many as say this of any other sports league. Twenty percent say the National Basketball Association has the greatest problems, 17% say the National Hockey League, and only 11% say the National Football League.

Gallup asked baseball fans to rate the state of the game in 2003, and while just 7% said the game is in a crisis, 33% said the game faces major problems. Another 52% said the game faces minor problems.

By far, the biggest problem baseball fans perceive is the financial gap between so-called "large-market" and "small-market" teams, with 44% calling the payroll gap the most serious problem the game faces today. For example, the New York Yankees have a payroll of $149.2 million dollars for this season. In stark contrast, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who have the smallest payroll, will spend only $19.6 million dollars. In fact, baseball's highest-paid player, Alex Rodriguez of the Texas Rangers, will earn more this season by himself ($22 million) than the Devil Rays' entire 25-man opening day roster.

Part of the disparity stems from the players' refusal to accept a salary cap during last year's collective bargaining talks. While the two sides were able to work out their differences in time to avoid a strike, 26% of baseball fans rate the conflict between players and owners as the biggest problem facing the sport. By way of comparison, 17% of fans called players' reputed use of anabolic steroids and dietary supplements the game's biggest problem, 6% blame poor leadership by Selig, and just 2% say on-field cheating by players using corked bats or scuffed balls.

Baseball Fans:
What is the Biggest Problem
Facing Major League Baseball Today?
June 27-29, 2003

Selig's Tenure Marked by Problems

The rather pessimistic views of the state of baseball may not be surprising. Selig has presided over what may be one of the most troubled decades in baseball's long history. While serving as interim commissioner (1992-98), he presided over the 1994-95 strike that led to the first-ever cancellation of a World Series. As commissioner, he nearly faced another baseball strike last year, and has also dealt the aftermath of the Pete Rose gambling scandal, the growing issue of steroid use by players, and with the financial problems team owners have brought upon themselves.

However, the poll shows baseball fans generally evaluate Selig's job as commissioner positively. While just 8% rate Selig's job performance as "very good," 57% give him a good rating. Another 15% rate his work as "bad" -- and 9% give him a "very bad" rating. Despite the troubles, Selig has had some notable successes, such as the introduction of inter-league play, expanded playoffs, regular season games in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Japan, and helping to avoid the players' strike many fans expected last year.

Fan Support Remains Strong

Baseball faces another major issue – the perception that its fan base is declining. And while 30% of baseball fans say they are following the game less closely than they did three years ago, the vast majority say they are following it the same as before (54%) or more closely now (16%).

Despite the perceptions of a dwindling fan base and perhaps less enthusiasm for the sport among its current fans, Gallup Poll data show the proportion of baseball fans in the United States has been relatively steady for the past decade. While football eclipsed baseball years ago as America's most popular professional sport, about half of Americans consistently describe themselves as baseball fans.

Are You a Fan of Professional Baseball or Not?

The June 27-29 poll found 46% of Americans identifying themselves as fans of the game, and a similar CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted June 9-10 found 50% support. Only professional football can claim more fans among Americans than baseball, while college football has roughly the same as baseball.

That support reached its lowest level in April 1995, when the players' strike of the previous year had continued into the start of spring training. Just 41% of Americans called themselves baseball fans at that point. The highest point came in September 1998, when the season-ending "home run derby" between sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa brought positive attention to the game – and 63% of Americans called themselves baseball fans.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 27-29, 2003. 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 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.

Are you a fan of professional baseball, or not?

 


Yes, a fan

SOMEWHAT
OF A FAN (vol.)


No, not a fan


No opinion

%

%

%

%

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

--



Are you following Major League Baseball more closely than you did three years ago, less closely, or about the same as before?

 

More

Less

Same

No opinion

Sports Fans

2003 Jun 27-29 ^

12%

33

54

1

Baseball Fans

2003 Jun 27-29 †

16%

30

54

--

^ BASED ON 579 SPORTS FANS

† BASED ON 385 BASEBALL FANS; ±6 PCT. PTS.



3. How would you rate the job baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is doing – very good, good, bad, or very bad?

 

Very

good


Good


Bad

Very
bad

No
opinion

Sports Fans

2003 Jun 27-29 ^

6%

51

15

8

20

Baseball Fans

2003 Jun 27-29 †

8%

57

15

9

11

^ BASED ON 579 SPORTS FANS

† BASED ON 385 BASEBALL FANS; ±6 PCT. PTS.



Do you think Major League Baseball – [ROTATED: is in a state of crisis, has major problems, but is not in a crisis, has minor problems, (or) has no problems at all]?

 


Crisis

Major problems

Minor problems

No problems

No
opinion

Sports Fans

2003 Jun 27-29 ^

8%

31

48

4

9

Baseball Fans

2003 Jun 27-29 †

7%

33

52

3

5

^ BASED ON 579 SPORTS FANS

† BASED ON 385 BASEBALL FANS; ±6 PCT. PTS.



Which of the following do you think is the most serious problem facing Major League Baseball today? [ROTATED: players taking steroids or other dietary supplements, conflict between the players' union and the owners, on-field cheating such as the use of corked bats or scuffed balls, poor leadership by the Commissioner Bud Selig, (or) the large gap in the amount of money teams have to spend on players]?

 


2003 Jun 27-29

Sports
Fans ^

Baseball
Fans †

%

%

The large gap in the amount of money teams have to spend on players

40

44

Conflict between the players' union and the owners

25

26

Players taking steroids or other dietary supplements

16

17

On-field cheating such as the use of corked bats or scuffed balls

5

2

Poor leadership by the Commissioner Bud Selig

5

6

Other

2

1

No opinion

7

4

^ BASED ON 579 SPORTS FANS

† BASED ON 385 BASEBALL FANS; ±6 PCT. PTS.



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