Americans side with baseball players over owners in current labor dispute

December 15, 2021, 9:35 PM UTC

It’s hard for Americans to sympathize with professional athletes who earn millions of dollars a year. According to a recent Economist/YouGov Poll, more than half of people say Major League Baseball players are paid too much. Hardly any say they aren’t paid enough. 

Yet when asked about the current labor dispute between players and owners, baseball fans tend to say that players, rather than owners, are in the right. Although nearly half of Americans who are at least somewhat interested in baseball aren’t sure whom to side with, those who have an opinion are twice as likely to side with the players over owners.

In baseball’s most recent labor disputes, public sympathies have tended to lie with owners instead of players. This time is different; the stoppage was initiated by owners, not players. Most prior MLB work stoppages were initiated by the players union, with the last one spanning 1994-1995, starting near the end of the regular 1994 season and lasting seven months. 

A CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted in February 1995, near the end of the last MLB labor dispute, found that Americans who had an opinion tended to say owners were more in the right, by a margin of about two-to-one compared to those who said the players were more in the right. 

While this time more see the players as in the right, on other questions the public shows little sympathy for either side. About half of people say they have not too much sympathy for the players or none at all, while nearly two-thirds say they have not too much sympathy for the owners or none at all.

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between December 4 and December 7, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty