Monday, August 29, 2016
"Democrats Hope Marijuana Will Help Elect Hillary Clinton. But experts say it might be a pipe dream."
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Mother Jones article. Here are excerpts:
With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both viewed unfavorably by the majority of Americans, Democrats are hoping that if the top of the ballot doesn't excite voters this November, maybe the bottom will. Marijuana liberalization and minimum-wage hikes will get a vote in a handful of swing states for the presidential candidates. But there's reason to think these issues might not galvanize voters the way they once did.
In previous presidential elections, down-ballot races have helped turn out voters in key states. In 2004, proposed same-sex marriage bans helped President George W. Bush secure reelection. President Barack Obama appears to have gotten a boost in Colorado in 2012 as residents there voted to legalize marijuana.
Marijuana is on the ballot in nine states this year — five voting on legalization and four voting on medical marijuana — and Democrats hope the measures will be a draw for liberal voters. The conventional wisdom, says Josh Altic of the nonpartisan political reference site Ballotpedia, is that marijuana measures attract a lot of young voters who support legalization but wouldn't otherwise vote, and that these voters overwhelmingly support Democrats.
In 2012, exit polls in Colorado showed the state defied the typical gender gap, with men more likely than women to vote for Obama. Pollster Ann Selzer of the Iowa-based firm Selzer & Co. speculates that the legalization vote drew more young men to the polls and helps explain this unusual gender breakdown. Floridians voted in 2014 on a medical marijuana measure that failed but attracted more than double the number of new young voters that had turned out in 2010, says Ben Pollara, who heads the United for Care campaign, which is supporting another medical marijuana measure in the state this year.
But as support for legal marijuana grows, the vote-yes camp is becoming more diverse. Multiple polls in the last two years have shown majority support for legalization. A Gallup poll last year found older demographic groups are starting to support legal marijuana, with 64 percent of people between the ages of 35 and 49 in favor along with 58 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64.
Young voters of both parties overwhelmingly support legalization, including 63 percent of Republican millennials, according to a Pew poll from 2014. Millennials favor Clinton, but marijuana ballot initiatives might attract voters of both parties this fall. "A random person who said, 'Yeah, I'm going to vote for marijuana legalization,' I would no longer assume they were going to vote Democrat," says Altic.
"We're seeing Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, even people from the Green Party be a part of this," says Carlos Alfaro, the Arizona political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which backs a marijuana legalization measure in the state. "The Democrats see this as a good way to get voters out there, but I don't think it's in any way a partisan issue, just based on the amount of responses we've gotten." Alfaro, a Republican, says many people in the legalization campaign are conservatives and that the state has a real "libertarian streak."
In Florida, Pollara's internal polling shows 77 percent support for the legalization initiative. "You simply do not get numbers like that without having broad support among, basically, every age, demographic, geographic, racial, ethnic group," he says.
Even as the effect of marijuana initiatives on presidential voting grows murkier, Altic expects votes on the minimum wage and gun-related initiatives to remain more partisan.... There are several other swing-state measures that could bring out voters, including a universal health care initiative in Colorado and an anti-union proposal in Virginia. But experts say it's important not to overstate the influence of any of these measures. "This stuff is very much on the margins, and it might help a little bit, but the presidential race is the main driver of turnout," says Skelley. "It's tough to say that these things are going to make much of a difference in the end. But I guess it can't hurt to try."
I agree that with the sentiment that "it's important not to overstate the influence of any of these measures" on the Presidential race, although it will still surely be useful to try to assess after the election numbers come in the fall whether and how marijuana ballot initiatives, especially in notable "swing" states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada, might have had an impact on voting patterns in at least some key states. Moreover, and perhaps arguably of greater long-term political significance, is whether any surprising 2016 "down-ticket" results might get attributed to a candidates support or opposition to marijuana reform.