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As MLB lockout continues, survey shows less interest in game as a result

MLBAs the MLB lockout continues, a survey of fans on their attitudes toward the game show a majority will likely spend less money on games and merchandise as a result of the labor dispute relating to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The poll of over 1,000 American MLB fans from market-research firm Savanta shows them expressing dismay that the season is being delayed by at least two series in 2022 and hold both players and team owners responsible. As a result, they say, they are less likely to spend money either attending a game, watch a game on TV or buying MLB merchandise, though 68 percent of those polled do expect a season in 2022. But they’re not necessarily following the lockout news closely: only 28 percent of fans are following the proceedings closely.

Still, there are signs of attitude changes that will impact the economics of the game, with 43 percent of fans saying their opinion about MLB is worse this year compared to 2021, and of those 82 percent trace that opinion to the lockout on some level. They are less likely to attend games—48 percent say the lockout has caused them to become less interested in attending games this season—and 52 percent of MLB fans say the lockout will cause them to spend less this year on MLB products compared to previous years. And of those fans, 46 percent say the lockout has caused them to become less interested in watching baseball games on television this season—the same percentage who say they will not scale back their TV consumption.

(Interestingly, Minor League Baseball doesn’t look like it will benefit from the labor strife: only 32 percent of MLB fans say they are very or somewhat unlikely to consider attending Minor League games if the lockout continues further into the season.)

In terms of attitudes toward the lockout, there’s an interesting split. In response to two questions, the same percentage—53 percent—agreed both that the owners are more responsible than the players for the lockout, and that the players and owners are more equally responsible for the lockout. In a poll number that will satisfy the Manfred haters, 60 percent of polled MLB fans agree that Rob Manfred is doing a very poor job at handling the lockout situation as commissioner, while only 12 percent disagree. 

In terms of attitudes toward players, 42 percent of fans disagree that owners do not profit enough and therefore should not have to grant players higher salaries, while 43 percent of fans agree that the league should hire replacement players and start the season. (Only 36 percent agree with the idea that players should be paid more.)

This poll won’t necessarily sway many baseball fans raising fusses on social media, nor will it provide ammunition to the players or the owners. And with just over a quarter of MLB fans paying close attention to the CBA negotiations, the lockout really hasn’t seeped into the baseball consciousness. Still, there are ominous undertones to the results: fans don’t feel strongly about taking sides (except for expressing a dislike of Rob Manfred), but those attitudes could change the longer the lockout continues and impacts the regular season.

Negotiations between owners and players continues today, with MLB reps warning that the 162-game regular season could be shortened and not just delayed if a deal is not reached by end of day.

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