The 2008 Major League Baseball season opens in parks across America after a winter when the sport's steroids issue once again grabbed headlines. Many fans do not believe that the use of performance-enhancing substances dominates the game, but more suspect player involvement today than did a few years ago, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.
Only 11 percent think most players use steroids. In 2002, 6 percent thought most players were using steroids. Today, another 23 percent of fans think half of players do. Most - 58 percent - think a quarter or only a few players do.
The number who thinks use is confined to just a few players has dropped, from 31 percent six years ago to 22 percent now.
Suspicions are by far the highest among younger fans: one in five fans under age 30, a generation that has mostly grown up with prominent baseball players suspected of steroid use, say most players are using them.
The steroid issue matters to fans: eight in ten care and most (53 percent) say they care a lot if players are using illegal substances.
However, although many younger fans suspect wider use, they also seem less fazed by it: just one-third care a lot, compared to majorities of fans in all other, older age groups, who do care a lot. Two-thirds of fans over 60 care a lot.
Compared to professional football, though, baseball fans think baseball has gotten rougher treatment about the steroids issue from the news media. Forty-five percent say baseball has been more scrutinized than the NFL. Many (26 percent) are not sure.
Clemens does fare better than Bonds in this regard; 50 percent of fans think he should get in. Forty-four percent think Bonds should get in.
Many fans have often sought to punish those using substances, if it is proven. In a May 2007 CBS News/New York Times poll, half the fans thought that in general, any record broken under the use of steroids should be stricken from the books.
Overall, 46 percent of Americans are interested in the game right now - saying they are either very or somewhat interested in Major League Baseball down from early last season. In May 2007, as Barry Bonds was breaking the all-time home run record, 59 percent called themselves very or somewhat interested in the game.
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is the game's most popular player - more fans volunteer him as their favorite than any other; he is named by 9 percent. Both men and women put him at the top. In second place is his teammate in the Yankees' infield, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, at 5 percent.
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,067 adults nationwide interviewed by telephone March 15-18, 2008. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. A small oversample of African Americans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 122 interviews among this group. The results were then weighted in proportion to the racial composition of the adult population in the U.S. Census.
Copyright 2008 CBS. All rights reserved.