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Fans favor MLB rule changes, don’t plan on attending games

MLBA poll of U.S. citizens and self-proclaimed baseball fans shows casual fans don’t mind three-hour games, but are in favor of MLB rule changes–but most of them don’t plan on attending a game anyway.

A poll from YouGov asked 1,000 U.S. adult citizens–including 347 baseball fans, or people who say they are very or somewhat interested in MLB–finds in general that people more likely to support than oppose new rule changes, but doesn’t necessarily show overwhelming support for the goal of presenting a shorter game. In 2022, the average nine-inning game took more than three hours to play. Only one-third of Americans (35 percent) and 31 percent of MLB fans said this is too long for a baseball game. A majority of MLB fans (56 percent) say this is about the right length of time, with 38 percent of Americans in agreement. Still, with 23 percent not sure what’s an appropriate length of time for a game, it could be argued most general fans are fine with the status quo or really don’t care.

Still, the poll yielded support for 2023’s new rules, including the implementation of a pitch clock and a banning of defensive shifts. The new pace-of-play rules are supported by most MLB fans (56 percent), with people who are “very interested” supporting it at a higher rate (61 percent). And the ban on shifts is more supported (49 percent) than opposed (26 percent) among MLB fans, and people who are “very interested” in MLB support the rule by a wider margin (56 percent to 27 percent).

One part of the poll, however, should be regarded with dread in MLB offices: Two thirds of poll respondents don’t plan on attending an MLB game this season, only 36 percent of casual fans plan on even watching a game on TV, and even among the self-identified MLB fans, only 39 percent plan on attending a game. Their preferred method of consumption: television, which makes the sport’s current streaming/broadcast crisis even more important.

Now, this is only one poll/data point with a 3 percent margin of era and we’d be surprised if MLB didn’t have its own consumer research covering this same topics in more depth. (We’d hope so, anyway.)

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