4/21: More Than One-Third Believes Decline in African American Baseball Players is a Concern… Race Factors into Perceptions of Baseball

More than one in three Americans considers the decline in African American players in Major League Baseball to be a problem.  This includes about one in eight who thinks the decline to be a major issue.

African Americans, 49%, are more likely than whites, 34%, to consider the composition of MLB players to be troublesome.

Looking at Americans’ perceptions of baseball, only about one in seven thinks of it as the most popular sport for children to play.  Football, 35%, and soccer, 28%, exceed baseball.  Racial differences exist.  White Americans, 15%, are more than twice as likely as African Americans, 6%, to say baseball is the leading sport in which children participate.  Still, baseball places third among whites, in terms of popularity, and fourth among African Americans.

Why aren’t children playing baseball?  Finances are a factor.  More than six in ten Americans, 63%, say the cost of playing in top travel leagues is, at least, part of the reason.  Additionally, 47% say the equipment is too expensive, and that is, at least, a partial explanation.

Americans wax nostalgic about the sport.  Nearly two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of African Americans played baseball as a child.  And, baseball, 33%, also ranks first as the sport Americans would like to play with their son.  However, while the sport tops the list for white Americans, it comes in fourth among African Americans.

Americans view baseball positively.  Most, 83%, consider it a sport which is rich in tradition and not too old-fashioned.  Nearly three in four Americans, 74%, call baseball “cool” as opposed to “not cool.”  And, nearly six in ten, 59%, say the sport is changing with the times and is not stuck in the past.  However, residents divide about baseball’s level of excitement.

Despite Americans’ mostly favorable impressions of the sport, baseball isn’t a major topic around the watercooler.  Only 31% say people talk about or follow the sport a lot during baseball season.  African Americans are the least likely to keep up with the sport.

This HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll has been conducted in conjunction with the Marist College Center for Sports Communication

Click Here for Complete April 21, 2015 USA HBO Real Sports/Marist Poll Release and Tables

“These results help explain what we all suspect — that baseball lags behind other sporting pastimes for American youth, particularly for African-Americans,” says Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication. “What could be most problematic for baseball officials is that changing the nature of the game may not alter this trend, since the larger impediment is cost, something that will be more difficult to drastically change.”

Poll points:

  • 35% of Americans, including 12% who say it is a major problem, think the decline in the number of African American and black, non-Latino Major League Baseball players is troublesome.  65% believe it is not a problem at all.
  • Age matters.  Americans under 45, 41%, think the proportion of African American and black baseball players is a problem.  31% of those who are older agree.
  • 49% of African Americans compared with 34% of whites report the decline is a problem.

Few Americans Think Baseball is Popular Sport among Children

  • 15% of Americans consider baseball to be the most popular team sport for children to play followed closely by basketball, 14%.  Football, 35%, and soccer, 28%, surpass baseball on the list.
  • Racial differences exist.  Among whites, 37%, and Latinos, 34%, football is the sport most children play.  Soccer comes in second among whites, 32%, and Latinos, 31%.  Among African Americans, 41% say children in their community play basketball, and 33% cite football.
  • A plurality of men, 39%, considers football to be the most popular sport played by children.  Among women, 32% choose football, and a similar proportion, 30%, select soccer.
  • Cost factors into perceptions of why some children do not play baseball.  More than six in ten residents, 63%, think, at least, part of the reason is because it costs too much to play in top travel leagues.  Close to one in five, 18%, say it is the main reason.  37% report it is not a reason at all.
  • While a majority of Americans, 53%, reports the cost of equipment is not a factor at all, 47% think children are not stepping up to the plate, partially, because of the expenseA majority of non-white parents, 55%, reports the cost of baseball equipment has, at least, something to do with why some children don’t play the sport, while a majority of white parents, 45%, says it’s not a reason at all.
  • There is a perception by 40% of residents that, at least in part, children are not taking up America’s pastime because too many children are needed to play the game.  60% say it is no reason at all.
  • 40% believe the length of the game has something to do with why children don’t gravitate toward the game of baseball.   Nearly half of African Americans, 47%, say the same.
  • About one-third of residents, 33%, thinks baseball takes too much skill, and that factors into why some children do not play the game.    
  • 32% of Americans believe lack of a nearby ball field is, at least, part of the reason children are not playing baseball.  68% report it is no reason at all.  African Americans, 47%, are more likely than Latinos, 36%, and whites, 28%, to think not having a place nearby to play is a reason children don’t play baseball.  In fact, close to one in five African American residents, 18%, thinks this is the main reason.
  • 31% say not knowing the rules is, at least, part of the reason why some children do not play baseball.  69% report this is not a reason at all.  41% of African Americans, including one in ten who report it is the main reason, attribute not understanding the game as a factor in why some children do not play the sport.
  • 31% of adults nationally believe, at least, part of the reason some children don’t play baseball is because the sport is not fun.

Baseball Considered Top Father-Son Sport

  • 33% of Americans report baseball is the sport they would like to most play with their son.  Basketball is a distant second, 21%.  19% choose soccer, and 18% pick football.
  • Again, race enters into the equation.  39% of white Americans would like to take their son to the baseball field while a plurality of African Americans, 34%, would visit a football field with their son.  Among Latinos, baseball, 26%, basketball, 25%, and soccer, 25%, receive comparable interest.
  • Americans 45 and older, 40%, are more likely than younger residents, 25%, to pick baseball as the sport they would share with their child.  Among those under 45, there is little consensus.
  • Close to two-thirds of adults nationally, 64%, say they played baseball as a child.  This includes 68% of white Americans, 60% of Latinos, and 57% of African Americans.
  • Nearly six in ten Americans, 57%, say they are baseball fans.

Baseball Mostly Conjures Positive Associations, But…

  • Most Americans, 83%, consider baseball a sport rich in tradition, and only 14% say it is too old-fashioned.
  • African Americans, 30%, non-white parents, 28%, and those under 30 years old, 22%, are most likely to refer to baseball as too old-fashioned.
  • Baseball is also considered “cool” by 74% of Americans.  22% think it is not.
  • Nearly six in ten residents, 59%, think baseball is changing with the times while 33% believe it is stuck in the past.
  • 59% report baseball is a sport children play in the city.  35% disagree.  African Americans divide.  49% think it is not a game played in the city.  47% say it is.
  • Americans are torn about baseball’s excitement level.  50% consider baseball “exciting.”  47% say it is “boring.”
  • Only 31% of residents say baseball is a large part of what people talk about or follow during Major League Baseball’s season.  An additional 42% report the subject is sometimes part of the conversation.  Close to one in four, 23%, says baseball is not part of the watercooler discussion.
  • African Americans, 35%, and non-white parents, 32%, are most likely to say baseball is not followed or discussed during the season.

Marist Poll Methodology

Marist Poll Nature of the Sample and Complete Tables