On April 13, the Texas Family Project published a poll stating Republicans in Texas believe gambling is just as addictive as drugs and alcohol.
The poll openly targeted Republican respondents, generating an inherent bias. But other potential pitfalls with the methodology and the phrasing of the questions are also problematic.
Regardless of the admitted bias, this poll helps provide insight into the Republican thought process as it pertains to concerns Texans have about problem gambling in Texas.
Basics of the Texas Family Project gambling poll
When taking a big picture look at the TFP’s outline addressing their findings from the poll, their takeaways highlighted three main points.
- The first major point:
- “85 percent of Texas GOP voters agree that casino gambling is just as addictive as drugs or alcohol.”
- The second major point:
- “many GOP voters believe that Democrats will benefit more from legalized Casino gambling than Republicans.”
- The third major point:
- centers around the opinion that most of the Texas GOP voters, “do not engage in the form of gambling that are currently illegal.”
To follow up their findings, two quotes from the Texas Family Project Policy Director Austin Griesinger were provided:
“Casino lobbyists and special interests can say what they want, but Texas Republicans know the truth. 85 percent of Texas GOP voters agree that casino gambling is just as addictive as drugs or alcohol and twice as many GOP voters believe bringing casinos to Texas would benefit Democrats more than Republicans. In short, bringing casinos to Texas is a bad bet.”
“We hear from the casino lobbyists that Texas is missing out on revenue from citizens who have to go out of state to gamble, yet our polling shows only 16 percent of Texas Republicans have done so in the past 12 months. The only thing Texas is ‘missing out on’ is the crime, corruption, and increased welfare costs that come with casino gambling.”
Their findings provide some insight into a particular sect of Texas voters, but the methodology they used leads to skewed results.
The methodology used in the Texas Family Project poll
Before getting into the poll’s findings, it’s important to first understand how it was conducted and the questions asked.
In total, 1,039 survey respondents were, “randomly selected from a demographically proportionate sample of likely 2024 Texas Republican primary voters.”
Issues with methodology and process of the poll
Their methodology clarifies the people taking this survey, while random, were:
- 78% Republican
- 69% over the age of 55
- 84% white
So, while they were randomly selected as the methodology states, it is still polling a narrow demographic who are admittedly adversarial towards gambling of any kind.
That inherent bias, while clearly stated, makes much of the information provided difficult to utilize. Polling specifically the people against gambling about their feelings about gambling expansion disproportionally skews the findings.
As well, the four questions were in a multiple-choice format. And the responses to the questions asked did not include context. They were simply ‘agree/disagree’ or ‘yes/no’ answer formats.
That process leaves respondents at the mercy of the questions instead of giving them the opportunity for open-ended responses, which would garner deeper insights.
For example, the Texas Family Project poll asked respondents who live in Texas where online gambling is illegal if they “have made a bet online in the last 12 months.” Finding that 95% of that sample of people have not made a bet online in the last 12 months is hardly revealing.
Issues with findings and presentation of the poll
The most important aspect to address is that gambling can be addictive to at-risk individuals. And the Texas Family Project focused on that in their poll.
So, when the Texas Family Project asked their respondents to say to which degree they agree that, “gambling can be as addictive as alcohol or drugs,” – regardless of how vague that statement is – their survey respondents understandably voted:
- ‘Somewhat agree’: 35%
- ‘Strongly agree’: 50%
The question about gambling being as addictive as alcohol was likely designed to address the dangers of problem gambling. However, the question does not include scientific data or clinical studies. The Texas Family Project is simply asking about the belief of a group of people who are already largely predisposed to oppose gambling.
The other questions followed a similar trend.
For example, “In the past 12 months have you placed a bet at a casino or horse track?” Again, in Texas casino gambling (except in a limited form in a single tribal casino) is illegal, so the likelihood that a conservative group of individuals opposed to gambling is unlikely to partake in those activities.
The phrasing of some of the takeaways carried problems as well. One of the questions posed was, “Do you believe bringing casinos to Texas would benefit Republicans or Democrats?” The only method of answering was to choose between ‘Democrats’, ‘Republicans’, or ‘Unsure’.
- 65 % of their voters voted for ‘Unsure’
- 24% voted ‘Democrats’
- 11% voted ‘Republicans’
Those findings led the Texas Family Project to state, “twice as many GOP voters believe that Democrats will benefit more from legalized Casino gambling than Republicans.” While technically accurate, it overlooks the more salient point that 65% of their respondent pool were unsure in the first place.
Responsible gambling aid and education go hand in hand with legalization
It is important to say again that gambling can be addictive. And, while there’s an issue with saying it is, “as addictive as drugs or alcohol,” the point that legalizing gambling leads to more gambling addiction is not wrong.
People who are predisposed to addiction or those who get caught up in the excitement can all develop problem gambling habits. Problem gambling takes many forms, and they should all remain in sharp focus for state operators, regulators and lawmakers.
That is why many of the bills that legalize or expand different forms of gambling also utilize money from tax revenue to fund projects that address problem gambling and provide resources to those in need. Promoting the habit of gambling responsibly is another way to provide preventative aid and educate gamblers.
Regardless of the resources and responsible gambling education provided, there will be some who abuse gambling. This poll, while designed to highlight the dangers of gambling, does very little to actually represent those dangers in their questions or their findings.