WASHINGTON – Not only does the general public want vaccination proof, mask mandates and social distancing options in sports venues, according to a poll conducted by Seton Hall University, sports fans want them in bigger numbers than the general public – and avid fans most of all.

Sixty-eight percent of the general population, 72% of those who call themselves sports fans and 77% of self-described avid fans favor designated areas within venues to separate those who wished to maintain social distance seating, according to the poll, whose results were released May 26.

Fifty-three percent of those polled said sports teams should require proof of coronavirus vaccination for admittance to games, the survey said. The numbers went up to 60% for sports fans, and 71% for avid fans.

Asked about wearing masks at sporting events, 52% of those polled said yes, with the numbers rising to 56% of sports fans and 59% of avid fans.

The Seton Hall poll was conducted May 21-24, surveying 1,554 adult respondents throughout the United States. It used a national representative sample weighted according to gender, age, ethnicity, education, income and geography based on U.S. Census Bureau figures. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.2%.

Seton Hall, a Catholic university in South Orange, New Jersey, conducted a similar poll last November, when reports emerged of vaccine successes in clinical trials, but also when few fans – if any – were being allowed into stadiums and arenas to see live sports.

Respondents were asked then, "If you were to receive the coronavirus vaccine, would you attend a live outdoor sporting event in-person, with personal protection equipment, socially distancing measures, and restricted attendance?" Half of sports fans said no, with just 39% saying yes. Among all survey respondents, 58% said "no" compared to 28% who said "yes." Non-fans were even more skeptical, with a 73% "no," 8% "yes" response.

Since then, roughly half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, further clinical trials have shown success in vaccinating adolescents and teenagers, and about 2 million doses are being administered daily.

With the rising numbers, capacity restrictions at venues – which had been loosened somewhat compared to last season – are being loosened more and removed. The National Football League said May 25 that its goal this year is to play a full season in full stadiums.

Asked the same question in May, 51% of all respondents said they would attend a live sporting event while 35% said "no." Sports fans said "yes" by a 3-to-1 margin, and non-fans softened their opposition from November's 9-to-1 margin in opposition to 2-to-1 in May.

For indoor sporting events, support was not as strong, as 59% of sports fans said they'd go, but just 43% of all surveyed said yes, and 21% of non-fans.

Asked whether leagues and teams should allow full capacity fan attendance in their stadiums, a plurality of 46% of those surveyed said yes. Sports fans agreed by a 54%-43% margin, but non-fans said no by a 40%-34% margin.

"This is a significant indicator of the trend to return," said a May 26 statement by Charles Grantham, director of the Center for Sport Management within Seton Hall's Stillman School of Business. "Sports fans seem cautiously optimistic, but also seem to favor precautions regardless of the official relaxation of restrictions over the last month."