In overwhelming numbers, major league baseball fans and citizens as a whole say they do not want a baseball strike, but are indifferent, at best, to the issues involved for players and owners in their contract dispute, according to a Washington Post-ABC News nationwide poll.
Among fans -- roughly four persons in 10 interviewed -- 83 percent oppose a walkout, which could occur Tuesday. Among the rest, 67 percent are opposed.
Both fans and the general public expressed little sympathy for either the players or owners. Only 13 percent of those surveyed said they sided with the players, and 18 percent with the owners. Sixty-three percent said they sided with neither, and 6 percent had no opinion.
Among those interviewed who call themselves baseball fans, 16 percent sided with the players, 24 percent with the owners and 55 percent with neither. Men were more likely than women to side with the owners.
The findings strongly suggest that the public sees itself, not the players or owners, as the main victim of a shortened season. And the big money in professional sports apparently is discomforting to many ordinary citizens.
Two of every three persons interviewed said they felt the players, whose average salary is $350,000 a year, are overpaid. Yet the fact that so few side with management is clear evidence of a "pox-on-both-your-houses" sentiment.
While the overwhelming sentiment was against a strike, there were some sharp differences in views among the groups polled.
For example, 75 percent of whites opposed the strike, compared with 58 percent of blacks. That difference may be explained by the fact that many blacks see professional sports, more than other endeavors, as providing members of their race an opportunity to excel.
Three of four members of nonunion households also opposed the strike, compared with 66 percent among members of union households.
The survey was conducted by telephone last Thursday through Monday night. In all, 1,506 persons were interviewed in the continental United States, including 550, or 37 percent, who said they follow major league baseball.