Only 25% of voters back a proposal to expand sports betting, many still undecided
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, NJ, July 8, 2021 – In November, NJ voters will decide the fate of a constitutional amendment that would allow for legal college sports betting on local teams for the first time, but right now, the chances of that amendment passing look grim. According to the latest results from the FDU Poll, voters oppose the measure by a 2 to 1 margin, with only 25 percent of voters saying that they favor the change to the state constitution. Younger voters, those without a college degree and Republicans are the most likely to support the measure.
“Many voters still aren’t sure where they stand on the matter,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of government and politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Executive Director of the poll. “But supporters are going to need to change a lot of minds if they want to get this passed.”
In the poll, one-quarter of registered voters (25 percent) said that betting on college sports should be allowed, with half (49 percent) saying that it should continue to be banned. The remainder (26 percent) said that they weren’t sure, or didn’t want to answer the question.
While New Jersey casinos have been allowed to offer wagers on professional sports since 2018, current law prohibits betting on any contest involving a New Jersey school, or any college sports event taking place in New Jersey. So, betting on the FDU men’s basketball team in last year’s NCAA tournament was illegal, even though they were playing in a national tournament held outside the state, and betting on any team in that national tournament would be illegal if it took place in New Jersey. Late last month, a lopsided majority of the state Assembly voted to put the question on the ballot in November; it had previously passed the state Senate 36 to 1.
Initially, college sports had been excluded from the sports betting law because of concerns about match-fixing: as student-athletes aren’t paid, it was thought that they might be more susceptible to bribes. However, in the wake of a Supreme Court decision and NCAA rules changes allowing student-athletes to be paid, this may be less of a concern. Supporters of the bill in the legislature argue that it will benefit New Jersey casinos, as all bets have to go through a New Jersey casino or racetrack, or an online service affiliated with one.
Those most likely to be supporters of the change were Republicans (32 percent, compared to 18 percent support among Democrats), men (36 percent) and the youngest voters: 36 percent of voters under 35 support it, compared with just 11 percent of seniors. However, in a normal off-year election, like the one happening in November, older and more educated voters are disproportionately likely to turn out, increasing the difficulty of passing the constitutional amendment. Only 22 percent of voters with a college degree say that they support the measure.
“This change might have had a better chance in a higher turnout year,” said Cassino. “But among the voters who tend to turn out the most, there’s just no appetite for expanding gaming yet again.”
Part of the problem facing the measure may be status quo bias. When people have less information about a ballot item, they tend to support the status quo, rather than a change. The text of the measure that will be on the ballot may reinforce this, as it explains that betting on college sports teams is currently not allowed.
“As it is, opposition is some combination of not wanting to change things without understanding the options, and just plain opposition to more expansion of gambling in the state,” said Cassino. “Supporters have to explain what they’re proposing, and hope that voters are going to buy in.”
The survey was conducted between June 9 and June 16, 2021, using a certified list of registered voters in New Jersey. Voters were randomly chosen from the list and contacted in one of two ways. Three-quarters of the respondents (608) received an invitation through SMS (text) to fill out the survey online, via a provided link. The other quarter of respondents (195) were contacted via telephone, using the same registered voter list. The survey covers 803 registered voters in New Jersey, ages 18 and older, and was conducted entirely in English. The survey was carried out by Braun Research, Inc, of Princeton, New Jersey. Of the interviews, 123 were conducted over landlines, the remainder via cell phones.
The data were weighted to be representative of the registered voter population of New Jersey. The weights used, like all weights, balance the demographic characteristics of the sample to match known population parameters. The weighted results used here are balanced to match parameters for sex, age, and race/ethnicity.
SPSSINC RAKE, an SPSS extension module that simultaneously balances the distributions of all variables using the GENLOG procedure, was used to produce final weights. Weights were trimmed to prevent individual interviews from having too much influence on the final results. The use of these weights in statistical analysis helps to ensure that the demographic characteristics of the sample approximate the demographic characteristics of the target population. The size of these weights is used to construct the measure of design effects, which indicate the extent to which the reported results are being driven by the weights applied to the data, rather than found in the data itself. Simply put, these design effects tell us how many additional respondents would have been needed to get the weighted number of respondents across weighted categories: larger design effects indicate greater levels of under-representation in the data. In this case, we see design effects of approximately 1.14.
All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. Sampling error should be adjusted to recognize the effect of weighting the data to better match the population. In this poll, the simple sampling error for 803 registered voters in New Jersey is +/-3.46 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Including the design effects, the margin of error would be +/-3.94 percentage points, though the figure not including them is much more commonly reported.
This error calculation does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, or context effects.
Weighted Telephone Sample Characteristics
803 New Jersey Registered Voters
Woman 52% N = 407
Man 47% N = 364
Some Other Way 1% N = 7
18-24 12% N = 93
25-34 13% N = 101
35-44 13% N = 102
45-64 37% N = 293
65+ 25% N = 199
Democrat (with leaners) 46% N = 371
Independent 22% N = 172
Republican (with leaners) 32% N = 260
White 70% N = 560
Black 9% N = 75
Hispanic 8% N = 61
Asian 4% N = 31
Other 10% N = 77
HS or Less 12% N = 95
Some College 31% N = 246
College degree or more 56% N = 448
Question wording and order
NJ1, NJ2, NJ4-NJ6 released on 21 June; NJ 10-15 released on 25 June
NJ3. The New Jersey state legislature is currently debating a bill that would allow betting on our college sports teams in New Jersey. What do you think? Do you think betting on college sports in New Jersey should be allowed or should continue to be banned [option order rotated].
Other questions to be released at a later date
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