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What to make of the New Jersey Online Gambling Poll

25 February 2011 by admin

Fairleigh dickinson u-logoThe staff of Online Casino Suite is unanimous in our support for online gambling regulation in the U.S. state of New Jersey. However, we are split on confidence that such a thing will happen. Some worry that because Christie is a Republican with greater political aspirations, he could back away from the controversial bill and veto it. I was much more confident, seeing nothing in Christie’s platform or ideology that would prevent signing it. And then something happened that shook even my confidence: the Feirleigh Dickinson poll.

As OCS reported two days ago, a poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind said that only 26% of New Jersey residents support online gambling while 67% oppose the idea. That’s certainly not good news for proponents of the legislation. As someone who criticized the Obama administration for “ignoring the will of the people” regarding healthcare reform, the stimulus bill and other unpopular laws, Christie might not be willing to sign legislation that is now found to be unpopular in New Jersey. To be honest, I’m shocked that this poll or another like it wasn’t released sooner. Is there seriously no one who polled the residents about this before the bill was drafted?

If Christie is unsure about whether to sign the bill, the PublicMind poll is a good reason to use his veto. The important thing to ask is what the poll means. Are a majority of Jerseyans against online gambling? Well, maybe.

PublicMind1500x1350It’s important to remember that polls aren’t always accurate gauges of public opinion. To begin with, there is the typical response bias, which means that the results can be skewed by how the question is asked (is it a push poll?) or how the responder thinks the question should be answered. There is also a strong bias in that when polling people, you only get answers from people who elect to participate in the poll. Those with no strong feelings on a subject are less likely to respond. Polls can also have sampling errors. All of this is why it’s important to get polling data from multiple sources. We don’t have that. Instead, we have only one source: PublicMind, the opinion research center of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Since that is the only data we have, let’s look deeper at the poll itself. Between February 7, 2011 and February 13, 2011, PublicMind conducted a telephone poll of a randomly selected sample of 801 registered voters in the state of New Jersey. They list the margin of error as +/-3.5%. As to how the questions are worded, that seems to have been done in a fair way in regards to online gambling.

The sports betting questions were a little more leading. For example, one question said that “Some people say lots of people bet on sports anyway, so government should allow it and tax it. Others say legal betting on sports is a bad idea because it promotes too much gambling and can corrupt sports. Which comes closer to your view?” To that question, 55% said to allow it and 37% said sports betting is a bad idea. A simpler question, which simply asked if sports betting should be legalized, without mentioning corrupting sports, got an answer of 62% in favor and 32% opposed. It’s the same question, but got a different response because of how it was worded.

Now let’s look at the questions for online gambling. None of the questions mentioned anything negative or positive about online gambling. They didn’t mention problem gambling, crime, reducing the state’s deficit, increasing freedom or anything like that. A typical question was “do you favor or oppose allowing New Jersey casinos to run betting games online, over the internet, for people in New Jersey?” There is no chance for that wording to sway anyone and to that particular question, 27% were in favor, 65% opposed and 8% unsure.

Another interesting thing is that 75% of respondents said that over the past 12 months they had never participated in an office betting pool for the Super Bowl or any other game. In another question, 66% of respondents said that they had not been to a casino or slots parlor. That means that the people who responded to the survey tended to not participate in gambling in any form. Does that skew the results? Perhaps.

Everyone who participated in the survey was also asked to identify their political party (Democrat, independent or Republican). There was no statistically significant difference between political party and their opinion on internet gambling, suggesting that the opinions are rather bipartisan. Men were slightly more likely to favor online gambling than women, though.

After reading the entire survey, it certainly seems fair, but I would like to see a poll from more than one source on this issue. Until another one comes along, though, the only data we have shows that the majority of New Jersey residents oppose online gambling. That means Governor Christie’s decision just got a lot tougher.

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