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New poll shows California tilting against legalized marijuana

The latest poll on Proposition 19, the ballot measure on legalized marijuana in California, found more opposition than previous polls. Prop. 19 backers dismiss the poll. Opponents say it is a sign.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / October 6, 2010

James Rigdon, center, field director for "Yes on 19", talks to a campaign worker at the campaign office in Oakland, California, on Sept. 23.

Tony Avelar / The Christian Science Monitor


Los Angeles

As the nation’s first state vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use nears, a new poll has introduced fresh uncertainty into the race.

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After weeks of riding a wave of positive poll results, supporters of Proposition 19 were handed a head-scratcher on Tuesday when a Reuters/lpsos poll found 53 percent of California voters opposed to the measure. The same polling company found voters nearly deadlocked on the issue in June. Also troubling for the "Yes on 19" side are media reports that it is out of money.

Opponents of marijuana legalization say the poll shows that Californians are turning against Prop. 19 as they learn more about it. Prop. 19 backers are painting the poll as an anomaly.

Future polls should offer more insight into whether the Reuters/Ipsos poll is off base or whether it is picking up a shift in the race.

“Either this poll is way off, or they are picking up something that no one else has so far," says Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization that backs legalizing and regulating marijuana.

New poll: outlier or indicator?

He notes that a Sept. 21 California Field Poll, a Sept. 26 PPIC poll, and an Oct. 3 SurveyUSA poll all found more support than opposition for Prop. 19 among California voters.

Proponents of Prop. 19 point out that the questions in the Reuters/Ipsos poll use different descriptions than the wording in the initiative itself. Moreover, they suggest that the small sample size of the poll may also have accounted for why the results differ from several others.

"All of the evidence points to this latest poll as being an outlier compared to all the others showing us ahead,” says Yes On 19 spokesman Tom Angell.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll's findings on the two major political races in the election – for Senate and governor – also don’t square with the other polls, say backers.

But opponents of legalization say the new poll results reflect the fact that 24 state newspapers have come out against Prop. 19 in recent weeks.

“We feel these editorial positions are getting to the undecided voters,” says Roger Salazar, spokesman for the No On Proposition 19 campaign. “[Voters] held off making their decisions until they weighed the pros and cons and now have made up their minds.”