A majority of American baseball fans think Major League Baseball teams should be required to add protective netting to ballparks in areas close to the field in order to prevent fans from being hit by foul balls and bats. When it comes to personal preference about whether they would choose to sit behind such netting, a majority of baseball fans report they would rather sit in an unprotected section. However, fans are more likely to say they want to sit behind protective netting when sitting in seats close to the field or attending a game with children.
54% of baseball fans, including 51% of those who have attended a Major League Baseball game, support adding protective netting to areas close to the field. Gender, age, and racial differences exist. While 60% of women support such protective measures, men divide 48% in favor to 49% opposed. Also of note, fans 45 years of age or older, 60%, are more likely than younger fans, 46%, to say netting should be installed.
On the question of fan preference, 54% of baseball fans say they would prefer to sit in a section of the ballpark without protective netting. Again, demographic differences exist. While 55% of women report they would rather sit in seats with the netting, only 29% of men say the same. Fans 60 and older, 54%, are more likely than younger fans to choose a seat shielded from foul balls and bats. Those 18 to 29 years old, 32%, and fans 30 to 44 years of age, 31%, are the least likely to have this preference.
When proximity to the field enters the picture, opinions change. If sitting above the dugout or along the baselines, half of baseball fans, 50%, say they would prefer to sit in an area protected by netting compared with 47% who would not. However, a gender gap remains. 61% of women, compared with 41% of men, would opt to sit in the protected seats.
Children are a game changer. 77% of baseball fans would choose to sit in an area with netting if they were with children. Regardless of demographic group, at least 69% report they would like to be protected from foul balls and bats if bringing a child to the ballpark.
This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication.
“Public awareness exists about fan safety at Major League baseball games, especially when it comes to children. This should allow the League to cautiously put up additional safety netting,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, “The challenge for baseball is to institute safety measures without upsetting fans who would rather have an unobstructed view.”
Does watching a game through protective netting make the game less enjoyable? 66% report it does not change the way they feel about watching the game. One in four, 25%, believes it makes it less enjoyable, and 8% report it makes it more enjoyable. Men, 30%, are more likely than women, 20%, to think protective netting interferes with their enjoyment of the game.
Half of Americans, 50%, say they follow baseball, at least, a little. 81% of fans have been to a major league stadium. 19% have not.
Baseball, however, is not the game of choice for sports fans. A majority of sports fans, 55%, say football is their favorite sport to watch or follow. Baseball is a distant second with 17% followed by basketball with 14%. Seven percent choose soccer, and 6% select hockey.
58% of Americans are sports fans, little changed from 57% in December.