Fans and Race


Graphic from the Pulic Religion Research InstituteA while back I mentioned that, yet again, MLB has put together a panel to look at the issue of race and that I planned to look at the available data more closely.  The issue is a complicated one, and I am still trying to compile the data.

However, one argument put forth to explain the decline of blacks in baseball is that blacks, in general, are not interested in the game.  In fact, a lot of folks have pointed out that there are few black fans in the stands, but has anyone every tried to count them?  Not really.

This past April, the Public Religion Research Institute reported findings from its January 2013 Religion & Politics Tracking Survey.  The survey revealed that blacks were more likely than whites and Hispanics to agree that football has replaced baseball as the national pastime.

Fans at Camden Yards
Blacks account for 30% of the population in Maryland, and 64% of the population in Baltimore – but what percentage are they at Camden Yards?

Ok.  But that doesn’t tell us who baseball’s fans are.  Back in 2006, Business Week reported that the Chicago White Sox were one of the few teams that attempted to collect data on their fans.  The White Sox estimated that only 4.5 percent of those attending games were black (in a city where blacks accounted for nearly 40 percent of the population).

While there is a lot of good information on diversity within Major League Baseball, there is relatively little information on the fans themselves.  Observations suggest that there is a lack of diversity among those attending games, which could be related to economics and social class, but few have studied the extent of the problem or the reasons.

The Gallup Organization has been asking people if they are baseball fans for decades.  But the information they’ve put online does not discuss race.  What their data do show, however, is that the percentage of Americans stating that baseball is their favorite sport has declined over time.  In 1960, 34 percent of those polled stated that baseball was their favorite sport.  In 2008:  10 percent.

Obviously, though interesting, these data are insufficient to answer the question about the race and ethnicity of baseball fans.  Like the issue of why there are fewer blacks playing the game, we need more concrete research on who attends games and why.

To be continued …

~ baseballrebecca

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