Major League Baseball fans have become more receptive to the idea of adding protective netting to baseball stadiums. In fact, six in ten baseball fans, 60%, up from 54% in April 2016, think MLB teams should be required to add netting to sections closest to the field. 35%, down from 41% last year, do not think teams should be required to add this safeguard to sections above the dugout or along the baselines.
Regionally, 67% of fans in the Northeast, up from 61% previously, and 60% in the West, up from 43% say additional safeguards should be in place to protect fans from foul balls and bats. Majorities of fans in the Midwest, 55%, and in the South, 58%, also say the MLB should be required to put additional safety netting in their stadiums. These proportions are little changed from, 56% and 54%, respectively, in 2016.
More than three in four baseball fans, 76%, do not think watching a baseball game through protective netting detracts from the enjoyment of the experience. Included here are 68% who believe it does not change how they feel about watching the game and 8% who think it makes the experience more enjoyable. 21% think it will make a trip out to the ballpark less enjoyable, and 3% are unsure. These findings are comparable to those reported in 2016.
When asked about whether or not fans would prefer to sit in an area with or without protective netting, there has been a shift in public opinion. A majority of baseball fans nationally, 52%, now say they would prefer to sit in an area with netting while 41% report they would prefer to sit in a section without it. In April 2016, the opposite was the case. A majority, 54%, said they did not want netting in front of their seats, and 41% said they wanted the extra protection from foul balls and bats.
In the Northeast, Midwest, and South, there has been a notable increase in the proportion of baseball fans who would prefer to sit in an area with this protective covering. 58% of fans in the Northeast, up from 41%, 52% in the Midwest, up from 39%, and 52% in the South, an increase from 43%, have this opinion. In the West, fans divide. 45% report they would rather sit in an unprotected section while 43% say they would like safety netting covering them. Still, there has been a slight increase in the proportion of those in the West who say they would purchase seats protected by netting. In 2016, 40% had this opinion.
Men have also had a change of heart. 45% of men who are baseball fans, up from 29% last year, say they would prefer to sit in a section protected from foul bats and balls. 47% of men, down from 68%, said they would not. Among women, 60% up slightly from 55%, would choose seats covered by the netting. 35% would not.
The closer baseball fans get to the field, the more likely they are to want to sit in a section with protective netting. If their seats are above the dugout or along the baselines, 60% of fans, compared with 50% in 2016, say they would prefer to sit in a section with this safeguard. 35%, compared with 47% previously, would prefer to sit in uncovered sections.
When children enter the equation, most baseball fans say they would select seats in a shielded area. 80% of fans say they would select seats in an area with netting while 17% would not. When this question was last reported in 2016, 77% said they would sit in a section with protective netting if they were accompanied by a child. 21%, at that time, would prefer seats in a section without the covering.
The debate over adding protective netting to stadiums re-emerged after a toddler was struck and injured by a foul ball at Yankee Stadium this year. In such situations, whose responsibility is it to protect those in the stands? Fans divide. 49% say it is up to the fans to look out for their own safety and their children’s while 46% think stadiums should take action to protect fans.
A gender gap exists. 56% of men say the onus is on the fans while 54% of women say teams need to protect the fans and their children at the stadium.
Most baseball fans have first-hand experience at the ballpark. 83% have at some point attended a Major League Baseball game while only 17% have not. How many Americans are baseball fans? 55% of Americans, up slightly from 50% in 2016, say they follow professional baseball, at least, a little. Of note, the proportion of Americans who say they follow the sport a great deal, 14%, is nearly double the proportion in 2016, 8%.