South Orange, NJ May 18, 2022 – Are Major League Baseball games too long? "Yes" say 61 percent of self-described avid fans and 52 percent of sports fans, according to a new poll.
Of those surveyed, just 32 percent of avid fans and 37 percent of sports fans said no, games are not too long.
The poll was conducted by the Seton Hall Sports Poll May 6-9 across 1,512 adults throughout the United States. The poll features a national representative sample weighted on U.S. Census Bureau figures for gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent, with margins for subgroups higher in accord with smaller sampling size.
"Baseball has long been considered America's pastime," said Professor Charles Grantham, Director of the Center for Sport Management. “But perhaps Americans don’t have that much time to pass in the 21st century. By and large sports fans – particularly younger fans – would like a faster game. At the same time, baseball, more than almost any other sport, is a game of tradition and some fans are reluctant to accept change.”
Would You Watch More if the Games Were Shorter?
When asked whether they would watch more baseball if the games were shorter, a generational gap appears in the data, with double digits separating the youngest from the older demographics. This gap is highlighted by a 21-point difference between fans aged 18-34 and those 55 plus.
Age Breakdown for Would You Watch More
Among sports fans 18-34 years old, 59 percent said they would watch more MLB if the games were shorter (31 percent said no), while among self-described avid fans of the same vaunted demographic, 66 percent said they would watch more as opposed 25 percent who said they would not.
For those aged 35 to 54, sports fans said yes to the tune of 46 percent, while 36 per cent said no, they would not watch more baseball if the games were shorter. Among avid fans of this age group, 55 percent said yes, they would watch more, while 39 percent said no.
Of those aged 55 plus, just 38 percent of sports fans said yes, they would watch more, while an even greater 44 percent said no. Among this older demographic those who described themselves as avid fans, 54 percent said yes, while 33 percent said no.
The length of games is an issue that MLB has attempted to address with several initiatives and proposals over recent years to speed things up. The findings of this most recent survey of the American public would seem to indicate that MLB is a) correct in attempting to do so and, b) still has work to do. Respondents to the poll were asked how they felt about certain measures designed to speed up the game.
Pitch Clock? 68 Percent of Avid Fans Say Yes
One such measure, coordinated across the minor leagues, included a pitch clock giving pitchers 14 seconds to deliver a pitch or 18 seconds with runners on base. Amongst a sample of 132 games, 20 minutes on average were reduced from games.
Presented with that evidence, respondents were asked whether MLB should adopt a pitch clock and 68 percent of avid fans and 54 percent of sports fans said yes, with only 23 and 25 percent respectively, opposing it, showing more than a 2 to 1 margin in favor of the pitch clock.
Age Breakdown for Pitch Clock Support
In terms of a pitch clock, 70 percent of avid fans and 63 percent of sports fans ages 18-34 were in favor of such a device, with only 23 and 22 percent opposing it, respectively.
Among ages 34-54, support for a pitch clock was 67 percent for avid fans and 55 percent for fans, with 26 percent (for both age groups) not in favor.
Among the oldest demographic, ages 55 plus, support for the pitch clock was 65 percent among avid fans and 45 percent among sports fans. Just 20 percent of the avid fans in this oldest set opposed, and 27 percent who described themselves as fans said likewise.
PitchCom Has Wide Support, 3 to 1 Margin for Avid Fans
Another idea the executives at MLB are exploring to speed up the game is the new PitchCom system, already adopted by many teams. The system, introduced this year, allows pitchers and catchers to communicate digitally without hand signals using technology to verbally communicate through a band in the pitcher’s cap. The system is also thought to be a way to reduce sign stealing.
When polled about the new PitchCom system, 68 percent of avid fans and 54 percent of sports fans said they are in favor, with only 21 and 24 percent respectively opposed, a 3 to 1 margin for avid fans, more than 2 to 1 for fans.
Age Breakdown for PitchCom Support
Broken down by age groups:
Among those 18-34, avid fans support the use of the new technology by 71 percent to 20 percent. Among sports fans, PitchCom enjoys 60 percent support with just 23 percent opposed.
For those ages 35-54, 72 percent of avid fans support the use of PitchCom, with just 22 percent opposed. For sports fans, 57 percent support it, with 22 percent opposed.
Although there is support for PitchCom among those aged 55 and up, it is not as great. Among avid fans in the oldest age group, 52 percent support it with 22 percent opposed. Among sports fans in general in this age group, just 42 percent support the use while 26 percent are opposed.
"Even an established product needs to fine tune on occasion and listen to contemporary customer requirements," said Seton Hall Marketing Professor and Poll Methodologist Daniel Ladik. "These latest innovations from MLB – which have a great deal of support amongst the younger demographic – shows that the league has taken to heart the needs of what it hopes is its future fan base."
Questions with charted breakdowns and an online version of this release may be found here.