Most fans losing interest in baseball because of lockout, Times poll suggests

AJ Pollock of the Dodgers celebrates his two-run single against the Atlanta Braves on Oct. 20, 2021 at Dodger Stadium.
Six in 10 American baseball fans say the MLB lockout has made them lose interest this season.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Whether sports fans follow developments in the baseball lockout closely or pay no attention at all, a league with an already diminished fan base has jeopardized at least some of its remaining base because of the work stoppage, according to a Los Angeles Times/SurveyMonkey poll.

In the poll, 6 of 10 Americans said they were not baseball fans. Of those that described themselves as fans, 6 in 10 said the lockout has caused them to lose interest in the baseball season this year.

After baseball’s last labor dispute — a player strike that resulted in the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and a delayed start to the 1995 season — the league’s average per-game attendance did not recover until 2006.


Major League Baseball’s lockout is now in its third month. What happens now that Commissioner Rob Manfred has canceled the first week of the season?

In 1994, the average attendance was what was then a record for MLB: 31,256. The average remained below that figure from 1995-2005, rebounded through the steroid era and peaked at 32,696 in 2007 — the final year for Barry Bonds, who broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record that season.

Even before the pandemic restrictions on attendance over the last two seasons, the average attendance had fallen in seven of the previous eight full seasons. The average attendance in 2019 was 28,203, the lowest such figure since 2002.

The lockout, imposed by the owners last December in an effort to spur a winter resolution of the league’s labor issues, has not yet resulted in the loss of any regular-season games. Commissioner Rob Manfred last week announced the cancellation of the first week of the season, although the league has indicated a traditional 162-game schedule could be played if a collective bargaining agreement is reached this week.

No matter when an agreement is reached, according to The Times/SurveyMonkey poll, one-third of fans said they would buy fewer tickets, watch fewer games on television and buy less merchandise than they otherwise would have.

About half the fans said they expected no change in their habits in attendance, viewership and spending on merchandise. The remaining sixth of fans were split almost equally between expecting to spend more and offering no opinion.

According to the poll, 5% of Americans in general and 11% of MLB fans said they were following lockout news “very closely,” with 56% of Americans and 18% of MLB fans saying they were not following lockout news at all and another 31% of fans saying they were following “somewhat closely.”

A majority of fans in the poll said they were either not following lockout news at all, or not following it closely.

Thanks to stubborn owners, the MLB lockout will see fans lose seats, ushers and concessionaires lose livelihoods, and TV viewers lose a companion.

About half of fans blame owners and players equally for the lockout, with 31% blaming owners the most and 12% blaming players the most. In a related question, 65% of fans said players were negotiating in good faith with 42% of fans saying owners were negotiating in good faith.

The survey polled 3,768 Americans online from March 3-7, of whom 1,523 said they were baseball fans; the margin of error for the sample of fans is 3.5 percentage points.