Thursday, October 6, 2016
A month out from the election, recreational marijuana reform ballot initiatives are ahead in the polls in all five states
For a variety of reasons, I have been thinking that a majority but not all of the five state ballot initiatives coming to voters this November to legalize recreational marijuana were likely to pass. However, this Washington Post article has a headline suggesting my forecast for recreational marijuana reform efforts might be unduly pessimistic: "Marijuana legalization is leading in every state where it’s on the ballot this November." Here are the interesting details:
Marijuana advocates are heading into the final weeks of the 2016 campaign with the wind at their backs as the latest polling shows legalization measures currently favored by voters in all five states where they're on the ballot. This is something of a reversal from just a month ago, when the most recent polling had shown voters wary of legalization measures in Massachusetts and Arizona. But the margins of support aren't huge in any state, meaning that the contests could still swing either way.
Polling ballot issues is a tricky business, all the more so with marijuana-related issues, where responses can be heavily influenced by particular question wording. So in the same state, different polls with different question wording can yield radically different results even if fielded at similar times. Those caveats aside, here's what the latest numbers show.
In Arizona, a late-August Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll of 784 registered voters found that 50 percent supported marijuana legalization, 40 percent opposed it, and 10 percent remain undecided. That result is sharply at odds with a July poll of likely voters showing that only 39 percent said they favored the measure.
In California, a post-debate SurveyUSA poll of 751 likely voters found that Proposition 64, which would legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana, is supported by 52 percent of the electorate and opposed by 41 percent, with 6 percent undecided. This is a lower margin than some other recent polls there, which have pegged support at 60 percent or more.
Across the country in Massachusetts, the marijuana legalization measure there enjoys 53 percent support among likely voters, according to a recent WBZ-UMASS Amherst poll of 700 likely voters. Forty percent oppose it, while another 7 percent are unsure. That's also a turnaround from an earlier poll of 900 registered voters, which found only 41 percent supported the measure.
Up the coast in Maine, a late September poll of 505 likely voters found 53 percent support for the legalization measure, 38 percent opposed to it and 10 percent undecided. This number has been fairly stable since the spring.
A poll fielded last week of 500 likely voters in Nevada found the legalization measure there leading with 57 percent support, compared to 33 percent opposing it. That number is sharply at odds with a Review-Journal survey of 800 likely voters, fielded at the exact same time, which found the legalization measure leading by just 1 percentage point, well within the margin of error....
Marijuana opponents, for their part, are optimistic about their chances. "If anything, the polls should give the opposition some comfort," said Kevin Sabet of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. "If you are not at 60 percent at this stage in the game, it usually spells trouble for ballot initiatives." Sabet says his group is planning for a busy final month of the campaign season: "We plan to do much more in the next 30 days."
For a variety of reasons, I am disinclined to alter my thinking that a majority but not all of the five state ballot initiatives coming to voters this November to legalize recreational marijuana were likely to pass. (For those who want specifics, I am expecting California, Maine and Nevada voters to approve recreational, while I am expecting the Arizona and Massachusetts initiatives to not quite make it to 50%.) And especially because I expect to votes to be reasonable close on these issues in every state, the only thing I will predict with certainty is that I will be up into the wee hours of Election Night awaiting returns from all these states.