Marijuana Legalization in California: A Toss Up

Two recent polls show that the vote on a much-watched ballot measure will be very close.
by | July 1, 2010

While the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate numbers received the most attention, the recent Reuters poll in California also looked at the November ballot measure to legalize marijuana:

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, also found that 48 percent of voters would support legalizing marijuana, compared to 50 percent opposed.

(Hat tip: Swing State Project).

This poll follows on the heels of a Public Policy Institute of California survey from May that showed the measure ahead by a single point, 49%-48%. So, it's a toss up.

I expect that this measure will play out somewhat like Prop. 8 in California or, for that matter, gay marriage votes in various others states. When it comes to obscure ballot measures, wild, late fluctuations in public opinion are common. Voters don't focus on ballot measures until late in the election season. But, on the easy-to-understand hot-button issues, like gay marriage and like (I suspect) marijuana, public opinion is a lot more static. In other words, I suspect this one will stay close all the way through November.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find results for demographic subgroups on the Reuters poll. I'd love to have confirmation on the very interesting findings of the PPIC poll. That survey showed Democrats and independents more supportive of legalization than Republicans (no surprise there), but also some traditionally Democratic groups were opposed. Only 37% of Hispanics and 42% of women were in favor of legalization.

Republicans often say that they hold out hope of winning more Hispanics over to their party because lots of Hispanics are socially conservative. More often than not, though, immigration politics and economic issues have trumped the social issues. Still, you can see why Republicans hold out hope. Hispanic voters (arguably) played a key role in ending gay marriage in California and they could play a key role in defeating marijuana legalization too.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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