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Melbourne Cup: most Australians have little or no interest in ‘race that stops the nation’, Essential poll finds

Punters are switching off the Melbourne Cup, with a majority of Australians reporting they have little or no interest in what was once “the race that stops the nation”.

According to the latest Essential poll of 1,049 voters, just 11% reported a “high interest” in the Melbourne Cup, down five points from when the question was asked before the 2022 race.

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Despite a public holiday in Victoria and schools and workplaces stopping at 3pm for the annual ritual, 27% said they had “low interest” and 35% said “no interest” in the race, a combined total of 62%.

About a quarter (24%) said they had “moderate” interest, down seven points. A further 3% said they didn’t know.

Men had a higher interest in the Cup than women, with 13% of men reporting “high interest” compared with 9% of women.

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Young people were disengaged, with 9% of those aged 18-34 reporting high interest compared with 13% of over 55s.

About two-fifths of Australians say they will bet on the race, including 13% who regularly bet on horses and the Cup, down five points, and 26% who rarely bet on horses but make an exception for the big race, down three.

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One-fifth (20%) will watch the race but don’t bet on it; and two-fifths (41%) are not interested and won’t place a bet.

Men were more regular punters than women, with 19% of men saying they bet regularly on horses and will bet on the Cup, compared with 8% of women.

Young people aged 18 to 34 were also keen on a bet, with 12% betting regularly on horses and 31% “rarely” doing so but making an exception for the Cup.

Despite a lack of personal interest, two-thirds (65%) of respondents agreed the Melbourne Cup is a unique part of Australia’s national identity, down seven points. Just 50% of those aged 18 to 34 agreed.

About half (48%) said it promotes unhealthy gambling behaviour. More than a third (36%) said it normalises animal cruelty, up two points since 2022.

The figures come as an increasing number of brands and sponsors are distancing themselves from the Melbourne Cup and other racing events.