Thursday, May 23, 2013
HISTORIC FAN SURVEY
Way back in 1954 the Baltimore Orioles conducted the largest fan survey in the history of Major League baseball and the first of its kind ever taken. The survey covered a stretch of twenty home games over a two-month period, during which approximately 2,500 questionnaires were distributed on a random basis throughout Memorial Stadium. More than 2,400 completed forms were returned, representing an amazing response of close to 97%! Without going into detail about the carefully supervised and deliberate procedures we followed, I want simply to say that having studied public opinion polling and having conducted numerous surveys for various clients and organizations, including the Philadelphia Athletics and their farm club in Portsmouth, Ohio, I made sure that approved polling methods were used throughout the massive project.
From 100 to 150 carefully designed questionnaires were distributed by the well instructed ushers on each date at the start of game and collected by the third inning. Those who received the forms were most cooperative and seemed delighted to have an opportunity to participate.
Not having computers at our disposal, the massive amount of information gathered took us several weeks to tabulate. The results were first reported publicly at a major press conference, with colorful charts to portray the highlights graphically. It had taken about two hours to present the full report to the Board of Directors. The results were also summarized and published in a 24-page booklet, attracting huge interest throughout the country. The Sporting News, for example, featured this two-page cartoon spread on the story:The survey had a tremendous impact on baseball in general, as club owners had tangible evidence concerning all the factors that influence attendance and determine spectator enjoyment.
"What conclusions can be drawn about the 'average Baltimore fan'?" we asked in the final section of the survey. Among other things we found that the average fan was about 39 years old, a high school graduate, a white collar worker who earned slightly over $5,000 a year, and who usually had driven to the game by car from home with two other persons. Chances were three out of four that the fan was from the greater Baltimore area, came to three times as many games during the season than his or her out-of-town neighbors, and had probably been to no more than two other Major League ball parks, the most likely two being Washington and New York.
We discovered women did not travel as far as men to see a game and that women were slightly below the over-all average in income and education. We were surprised to find that a lower percentage of women came to the games by car, and that of the entire number of female respondents only one had driven by herself! On the other hand, a higher percentage (94%) of the women surveyed came with one or more persons.
In 1954 women were far more loyal to the home team than men, 70.4% as opposed to 51.3% listing the Orioles as their favorite team! In most other categories the percentages for women were similar to the over-all results.
Many things have changed in the nearly sixty years since that survey was taken, but some things are remarkably the same, because baseball fans are still baseball fans.