Steroids or Not, Fans Want Bonds to Play

Contrary to his statements otherwise, three-quarters of Americans believe baseball slugger Barry Bonds knowingly used steroids on his way to his home-run records. Yet most also oppose his immediate suspension if indicted, preferring to let his legal case first run its course.

Suspicion that Bonds lied has grown particularly among baseball fans: Eighty percent of fans in this ABC News/ESPN poll think he knowingly took steroids, up from 65 percent in March 2005. Still, if he's indicted, 55 percent say Bonds should be allowed to keep playing pending the outcome of his trial. Forty-four percent would prefer his immediate suspension.

Bonds and Steroids
  Yes No
Did Bonds knowingly use steroids?   80%   12%
If indicted, should Bonds be suspended from baseball immediately?   44   55

Records

There's less forgiveness for Bonds' records, which include most home runs in a season and second-most career homers. (He passed Babe Ruth this year and trails only Hank Aaron.) Given what they know now, just under four in 10 fans say Bonds' records should remain unsullied in the record books. About as many say they should remain, but with an asterisk; about a quarter want them removed entirely.

Bonds' Records
  Percentage
Remain in the books   37%
Remain, with an asterisk   38
Remove   24

Fans were split about evenly -- 48 and 47 percent -- on whether Bonds should or should not be elected to the Hall of Fame -- a notable absence of support given his many accomplishments on the field (including seven MVP awards). And if he were indicted and convicted, just 30 percent say they'd want him in the Hall.

Federal prosecutors have been examining whether to charge Bonds with perjury for denying to a grand jury that he knowingly took steroids, and also with tax evasion. A federal grand jury investigating the case was set to expire today; prosecutors said they're seeking more testimony. Bonds has denied wrongdoing.

Problem

Bonds is not the only target of criticism. Eight in 10 Americans, fans and non-fans alike, say the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by professional baseball players is a problem; despite stricter new rules, 53 percent of fans call it a "widespread" problem.

Indeed, and again despite its much tougher stance, 63 percent of fans also say Major League Baseball still is not doing enough to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs by its players. About a third say it is doing enough; that does mark some progress for management from spring 2005.

Baseball Doing Enough to Prevent Drug Use? (Among Fans)
  Yes No
Now   32%   63%
3/05   21   69

One potential option for baseball -- reversing course and allowing players to use steroids and other such drugs (as in effect was the case before 2002) -- is a vastly unpopular idea: Eighty-six percent of Americans, fans and non-fans alike, oppose it.

Groups

There are some differences among groups; younger adults -- and, most notably, men -- go somewhat easier on Bonds. Among fans, 60 percent of men say Bonds should be allowed to keep playing if indicted; that falls to 48 percent of women. Fifty-eight percent of men would like to see him in the Hall of Fame; 37 percent of women agree. If he's convicted, 44 percent of male fans would like to see him in the Hall nonetheless; just 15 percent of women go along.

Part of these differences stem from broader perceptions of the issue: While 79 percent of men who are fans call the use of performance-enhancing drugs a problem in baseball, that goes higher -- 90 percent -- among women.

Fans

More people in this poll than in the 2005 ABC News/ESPN poll -- 55 percent vs. 46 percent -- identify themselves as baseball fans (and another 10 percent say they're "somewhat" of a fan). A possible reason is that the 2005 poll was done in March, rather than in the midst of another baseball season. Nonetheless, on most issues views of fans and non-fans on these issues are quite similar, likely because of the notoriety of Bonds' case.

Methodology

This ABC News/ESPN poll was conducted by telephone July 19, 2006, among a random national sample of 500 adults. The results have a 4.5-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

Click here for more ABC News polls in our Poll Vault.

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