WEST LONG BRANCH – According to the latest national Monmouth University Poll, few Americans think that new testing and penalties imposed eight years ago have had much impact on reducing steroid use in professional baseball. The public supports a wide range of sanctions for repeat offenders, but a lifetime playing ban is not among them.
More than 8-in-10 Americans are aware of the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs by professional baseball players, including 55% who have heard a lot about this and 31% who have heard a little. Among this aware group, only 40% say that expanded testing and increased penalties by Major League Baseball in 2005 have been effective. Another 49% say they have not been effective in reducing steroid use among players.
Only 31% of those following the news believe that steroid use has gone down since new screening procedures and sanctions were put in place eight years ago. Another 40% say steroid use is about the same as it was and 18% say that steroid use has actually increased despite MLB’s efforts. Those who watch baseball at least weekly are the most likely to say that steroid use has gone down – about half (49%) hold this opinion. Only 30% of occasional baseball viewers and 24% of adults who are not fans of baseball say the same.
“There is some concern that a continuing steroid scandal could erode the national pastime’s fan base despite Major League Baseball’s best efforts,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey.
Nearly 8-in-10 Americans aware of the steroid news say MLB is taking this issue seriously, although more say it is taking it just somewhat seriously (45%) rather than very seriously (34%). Another 12% say the league is treating the issue not too seriously and 4% say it is not at all serious about the problem. Frequent game viewers (49%) and occasional viewers (40%) are more likely than non-fans (25%) to say that the league takes the steroid issue very seriously.
Overall, a majority of Americans currently hold a positive view of Major League Baseball, including 25% with a strongly favorable opinion and 28% with a somewhat favorable opinion. Fewer than 1-in-4 hold a negative view – 13% somewhat unfavorable and 9% strongly unfavorable. Another 25% have no opinion. Among those who have heard a lot about the steroid issue, 58% have a positive view of professional baseball and 24% have a negative view.
On the other hand, if players on their favorite team were found to have used steroids, 28% of adults say they would watch that team less often than they do now. Most (65%) would continue to watch the same number of games as they do now. Another 2% actually say they would be inclined to watch more games if a steroid scandal hit their favorite team.
The Monmouth University Poll also asked about public support of six possible sanctions for repeat steroid users – that is baseball players who have been found to use steroids more than once. Fully 3-in-4 (75%) support banning the offender from playing for an entire season. Seven-in-ten also say that fining the player a full season’s salary (70%) or imposing a shorter ban of 50 games (69%) would be appropriate. Just over 6-in-10 support erasing any records a player set while using steroids (63%) as well as banning the player from inclusion in the Hall of Fame (63%). However, only 1-in-3 Americans (33%) would support a lifetime playing ban for a player who was found to have used steroids more than once.
Notes on the poll: Professional baseball fans who watch games at least once a week represent 23% of American adults and occasional viewers make up 21% of the public. The remaining 56% of adults say they are not fans of professional baseball. This poll was conducted after the suspension of Milwaukee Brewer player Ryan Braun but before the most recent sanctions against New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and other players were announced.
The latest Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone with 1,012 adults from July 25 to 30, 2013. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.1 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.
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