Pot Legalization in California Could Fail (Unless Supporters Get to the Polls)
A new poll claims California voters might rebel against Proposition 64, the effort to legalize recreational pot.
Brian Feinzimer/L.A. Weekly
But when pollsters hired by opponents of legalization asked likely voters if they approved of some of the specifics spelled out in Proposition 64 — the upcoming November ballot initiative that would make it legal for adults over the age of 21 to hold up to an ounce of weed — only 36 percent said they'd "definitely" vote yes.
And after likely voters heard the opposition's argument that "marijuana smoking ads could be allowed on all broadcast primetime shows," 52 percent of respondents said they'd definitely or likely vote no, according to the poll, conducted by SmithJohnson Research.
"Latino support dropped considerably, with a swing of over 13 percent in opposition," the campaign said in a statement.
"This survey reveals why Proposition 64's supporters fought tooth and nail to keep voters from hearing about their plans to advertise on TV and radio — including filing a lawsuit to prevent information about this provision from appearing on the ballot," said Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which has a political arm (SAM Action) that's helping to fund opposition to the measure.
The poll also found the obvious, that as likely voters get older, support for the initiative gets weaker: 79.1 percent of likely voters ages 18 to 34 just say yes to 64. But as you get to the 75-and-older demographic, nearly 61 percent are opposed. As we all know, Grandma votes — and she tends to be fairly conservative, which should be alarming if you think 64 is a shoo-in. The Public Policy Institute of California says only about half of eligible adults ages 18 to 25 register to vote in California; for those older than 65, that rate is a whopping 86 percent.
This, of course, could change if the flood of folks who registered to vote for Bernie Sanders (and against Donald Trump) actually show up to the polls in November. Those Californians tend to be younger and more liberal.
Still, SmithJohnson argues that support for 64 is quick to change when respondents are faced with the advertising argument, which has been disputed by proponents who point out that illicit drug ads are forbidden by the federal government. "A single opposition argument would not normally produce such a dramatic effect, and certainly not across every demographic variable," a memo from the pollster states.
"Support is soft and it is definitely within striking distance," No on Proposition 64 strategist Tim Rosales said in a statement.
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However, when you dig deeper into the data, the poll's results are not as dire for legalization as you might imagine. Fifty-six percent of respondents support Proposition 64 overall, the poll says. That figure includes 20 percent who said they're "probably" voting in favor of the measure.
And the survey asked only 500 likely voters for their opinions, considerably fewer than the sample size (1,000 to 1,500 people or more) most statisticians like to see. The error rate for this particular poll is said to be 4.4 percent, meaning the numbers could swing either way by that amount.
"The only thing that’s credible or relevant about this polling memo is that the opponents’ own pollster says that Proposition 64 is supported by 56 percent of voters," said Jason Kinney, spokesman for Yes on Proposition 64. "The rest of it is a twisted logic pretzel that assumes all voters will only read the opponent’s far-fetched ballot argument and literally see and hear nothing else. This is one of those goofy campaign stunts that’s about as plausible as a Ryan Lochte cover story."
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