Since its introduction in 1973, major league baseball’s designated hitter (DH) rule has been the subject of continuing controversy. Here, we investigate the political and socio–demographic determinants of public opinion toward the DH rule, using data from a nationwide poll conducted during September 1997. Our findings suggest that it is in fact Democrats, not Republicans, who tend to favor the DH. In addition, we find no effect for respondents’ proximity to American or National League teams, though older respondents were consistently more likely to oppose the rule.
My first thought is: this is amusing but why is it in a top political science journal? But, reading the article, I realize that it indeed has more general implications. In particular, if we can make the assumption that causality only goes in one direction here–that a change in the view on the designated hitter will not affect one’s political preferences–then this is a clean study, a way of estimating the coherence of political ideology into non-political areas.
Also, the tables should be graphs. (Do we really need to know that a coefficient estimate is 0.707 with s.e. of 0.660, etc etc???) The one graph that is there, Figure 1, looks pretty goofy on its own, but it would look fine as one of a set of many comparisons.
One other thing: on page 198 they state that “Republicans are no more or less likely to support the DH rule than are political independents.” But looking at the table, Republicans are less likely to support the DH. The difference is not statistically significant but I wouldn’t call it zero. Most striking to me here is the huge difference between men and women (or, more precisely, that subset of women who are interested in baseball).
Personally, I’ve always thought the DH rule was silly (despite growing up as an Orioles fan) but Bill James made a good argument that it leads to better baseball, since you’re no longer wasting 1/9 of the plate appearances–not a trivial amount of time–on lame bunt attempts.