Pot legalization: Good news from California


Another marijuana legalization poll is out, and this one is very good news indeed.
On Sept. 26, California’s highly respected Field Research Corporation, which has been polling on California issues for decades, released a poll on the prospects of Proposition 64, the state’s marijuana legalization initiative. It found likely voters favored the initiative by 2-to-1.

That’s good news, but the news gets even better the deeper one digs into the poll:

· The initiative was favored by a 60 percent to a 31 percent margin with only 9 percent undecided. The low number of undecideds means that public opinion on legalization is beginning to solidify and is less likely to be swayed by a last-minute media blitz by the initiative’s opponents.

· The 60 percent level of support is the highest percentage of support for legalization that the Field poll found in the nearly 50 years it has been tracking California opinion on marijuana legalization. In 1969, the first year Field polled on the question, support for legalization was just 13 percent.

· Field reported that support for Proposition 64 “is broad-based and now includes majorities across nearly all major subgroups of the likely voter population.”

· The only major voter segments currently opposed to the initiative are Republicans and conservatives. But even here the poll’s findings were good news for the pro-legalization camp. Forty percent of Republicans said they favored Proposition 64, which constitutes a noticeable spike in Republican support for legalization. Usually GOP support for legalization in both state and national polls is mired in the low to mid-30s. (Seventy percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents favored legalization, no surprises there.)

· Identical numbers of men and women, 60 percent in each case, favored legalization. That is very good news for the pro-legalization side, because in the past there has been a gender gap on the legalization issue in California, with men in favor, and women less in favor or opposed. In 2010 a legalization initiative failed in the state by a 46.5 percent to 53.5 percent margin, with women providing the “no” votes that tipped the balance.

· The poll found that legalization was supported by every age group in the state, including Californians 65 or older, 52 percent of whom were in favor. One of the most intractable findings in marijuana polling has been the opposition to legalization among the voters aged 65 and older. The fact that 52 percent of Californians over 65 are on board probably represents the fact that the demographic is increasingly dominated by graying baby boomers.

· Marijuana polling usually finds the highest level of support among the 18 to 29 age group. Not this time in California. Although 60 percent of 18 to 29 year olds supported legalization, the highest level of support was found among the 40 to 49 year-old cohort (69 percent support) and among 30 to 39 year olds (66 percent support). This is good news for Prop. 64 supporters, because 30 to 50 year olds are more likely to vote than voters aged 18 to 29.

There were a couple of interesting surprises in the poll as well. Most people think northern California is where the stoners are. But the Field poll found the geographical area with the largest support for legalization was Los Angeles County, with 71 percent support. The comparable figure for the San Francisco Bay Area was 61 percent.

The more formal education a Californian has, the more likely he or she is to be in favor of Prop. 64. Sixty-six percent of those with a college degree and 67 percent of those with post-graduate work favored the initiative. Among those whose formal education ended with high school or less, support was only 48 percent.

Does this mean passage of Proposition 64 is a done deal in California? Of course not. The dumbest thing you can do in an election is to assume the outcome has been decided before the votes are cast.

But with the strength of these sort of polling results so close to the start of voting, it is fair to say that the battle for marijuana legalization in California is the supporters’ to lose.
(By coincidence, the California initiative was assigned the same ballot number, 64, as Colorado’s 2012 legalization initiative, Amendment 64.)


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