fdu_public_mind_pollMADISON, NJ - Even if New Jersey voters rushed to embrace sports betting in their recent referendum, voters across the country are not quite ready to join them - though new data suggest that the country may be moving in that direction. According to a national poll of registered voters by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™ voters nationwide split (42%-42%) on the question of whether to follow New Jersey’s lead and change federal law to allow sports betting in their own state.

“Gambling has become, for good or ill, a national industry, and you can bet that politicians and casinos all over the country are closely following New Jersey’s plans,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist and director of the poll. “The public will get interested too, if it is held up as a great new source of revenue.”

The split of 42%-42% is a change from the poll’s last study of the question in March 2010 when 53% of voters nationwide opposed sports betting compared to 39% who favored it.  While support increased only by 3 percentage points, the opposition melted by 11 points, and the percentage of those unsure, or with a mixed opinion doubled (16%). “One reason for the change in public opinion might be that New Jersey is pushing the issue,” said Woolley. “More people will wonder whether it’s an opportunity for their state too.”

Men and women have opposite views on the question.  Men favor the idea by margin of 49-37, while women oppose the notion by a similar margin, 47-35. There are significant age differences too.  Voters under 45 favor the idea. Voters 45 and older oppose it.

But the group most strongly in favor of it are those whose households already do it. Voters in households where people already bet on sports, or participate in an office pool, approve overwhelmingly of the idea (71-23). Voters in households where no one bets on sports oppose the notion (46-36).

Then there’s the question of internet betting, which has been proposed in New Jersey, but which national voters see as a distinctly different proposition. By a robust two-to-one margin (60%-28%) voters nationwide oppose the idea of allowing casinos in their state to run betting games online for folks in their state. That  opposition is little changed from the previous measure in 2010.

Further, both men and women oppose internet betting: men by 55%-35% and women by 65%-22%.  But again those who are already sports bettors, or enjoy the office pool, favor internet betting too (50-44), while voters who aren’t already busy placing bets are opposed to internet betting by a wide margin (64-20). “Sports betting is a big enough change for people to get behind and get used to,” said Woolley. “Internet betting may just be the final frontier.”

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 855 registered voters nationwide was conducted by both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 29 through Dec. 5, 2011, and has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points.