Measure to legalize marijuana trails in California, if polls are right
California's Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana use for adults, is trailing 51 percent to 39 percent, a poll released Friday shows. But some say polling on this issue may be problematic.
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• Races for governor and Senate in California may be affecting voters' views on Prop. 19. Four major-party candidates – Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman, Barbara Boxer, and Carly Fiorina – are all opposed. These prominent races may drive turnout up, bringing out older voters who would be more likely to offset younger voters' enthusiasm for Prop. 19.Skip to next paragraph
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The No on 19 camp says now that voters have had time to scrutinize the initiative, more are rejecting it – the latest polls are simply reflecting that.
“As expected, California voters are taking a closer look at Prop. 19 and are just saying no,” said Roger Salazar, spokesman for No on Prop. 19.
He cites a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll conducted Oct. 10-17 that showed 49 percent of likely voters were against it versus 44 percent in favor – an eight-point drop in support from the PPIC's poll in September. “The PPIC survey shows Prop. 19 has not been able to spark up support among voters, especially Latinos or independents,” says Mr. Salazar.
“While the measure claims to regulate, control, and tax marijuana, voters don't need eye drops to clearly see it does none of those things,” he adds. “The chronic flaws in Prop. 19 endanger public safety, make a mockery of workplace safety rules, and won’t generate the revenue claimed by proponents.”
Still, Prop. 19 is uncharted territory. No state has ever held a vote to approve or reject legalizing marijuana, so it can be difficult for pollsters to pin down who is a "likely voter" in this election, notes Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization that works to increase public support for nonpunitive marijuana policies.
“This is an issue that can motivate the young, irregular voter like no other,” says Mr. Fox. His organization is seeing “incredible enthusiasm on [college] campuses” nationwide, with many volunteering time to make calls to voters in California on the proposition's behalf, he says. The vote is considered crucial to the future of the pro-marijuana movement nationwide. If passed, Prop. 19 would allow adults at least 21 years old to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow 25-square-foot pot gardens for personal use, and it would authorize county and city governments to regulate and tax commercial cultivation and sales.
Moreover, Fox says, certain polls may not be reflecting some voters' true intent to vote for Prop. 19. One thesis is that polls that use live operators to ask the questions register less approval for Prop. 19, because respondents are reluctant to be honest in front of an actual person. Those that use automated calls may not encounter that same resistance, the thinking goes. One poll this month, USA Survey, uses robocalls and had the yes vote favored 48 to 44 percent, with 8 percent undecided.