It seems that betting baron Tom Waterhouse is not a crowd favourite. The latest Essential Research poll has found more than half those surveyed want to ban all betting on sports in the wake of allegations about widespread drug use and possible match-fixing.

It was 11 days ago that grim-faced politicians and sports bosses held a press conference to warn on drug-taking in sport. While some commentators have begun to dispute that message, claiming a lack of hard evidence, the poll found the public has bought the politicians’ warnings and is baying for a hard-line response.

Those surveyed thought the taking of performance-enhancing drugs was a major problem in cycling (56% rated it a “major problem”), followed by athletics (41%), AFL (39%) and NRL (37%). For each of those sports, fewer than 6% of respondents thought drugs were not a problem.

The poll, which covered just over 1000 people from February 14 to 17, found more than half thought betting on AFL (56%) and NRL (55%) was a major or moderate problem. There were also serious concerns about betting on cricket and soccer, despite lower concerns about drug-taking in soccer (22% thought drugs were a “major problem”). Concern about betting on cycling was less acute (43% rated it a major or moderate problem) than for the ball sports.

Fifty two per cent wanted to ban all sports betting (30% disapproved of such a move). An even more popular proposal — and potentially ominous news for the Essendon Bombers — was to ban teams whose players had been found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs: 54% supported a team-wide ban, 28% disapproved.

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The most popular response was “setting up a sports integrity commission with strong powers” with 76% in favour. A more libertarian approach — “accept that prohibition won’t work and allow approved performance enhancing drugs in sport” — flopped, with just 12% approving.

While those surveyed supported a hard-line response from authorities, they were slightly more relaxed about what they themselves would do if players from their sporting team were found to have taken drugs. The most popular response was the dire threat to “watch fewer games on TV”, an armchair semi-boycott which just over a quarter (28%) thought they would join. However, the net rating for that option was minus 10: 38% said they would not watch fewer games on TV.

Twenty seven per cent said they would attend fewer games, while 19% would stop going to games altogether. Eighteen per cent threatened to switch teams, while 41% decided their loyalty to their team’s colours was just too strong and they would stick with their drug-taking team.

While a Nielsen poll out in Fairfax publications today points to a plunge in support for federal Labor — down a disastrous five points to 30% on the primary vote, and trailing 44-56% on the two-party-preferred (2PP) — Essential has a different result. Essential found Labor’s support had actually lifted one percentage point on both the primary and the 2PP, putting Labor at a still-bleak 46-54 on the 2PP.

Labor’s primary vote was at 35% by Essential, significantly better than the Nielsen result. The difference is partly the result of a higher result for independents / Family First / other in the Nielsen poll. Nielsen is conducted less frequently than Essential.