That's great news for pot advocates, isn't it? It suggests that the new legalization ballot initiative being pushed by the ACLU and a slew of high-profile supporters will be approved without activists ever having to get their asses off the couch, right? Oh, if it were only that easy. A look behind the polling data shows that residents of the Evergreen State aren't so high on legalizing the green as the numbers seem to indicate.
The poll is the work of Elway Research, a nonprofit, nonpartisan company that tracks public-opinion trends in the Pacific Northwest. The firm surveyed 408 Washington residents by phone, asking them the following question:
There is an initiative gathering signatures that would legalize marijuana in Washington state. Which of the following best describes your position at this time:
*I definitely support legalizing marijuana
*I am inclined to support it, but I need to know more
?*I am inclined to oppose it, but I could be convinced
?*I definitely oppose legalizing marijuana
Here are the responses, explained by a snazzy color-coded bar graph:
The obvious catch is that only 30 percent of respondents said that they unequivocally support legalization, while 32 percent said they are categorically against it. That in and of itself makes for a losing proposition. A whopping 35 percent were undecided, with the majority leaning green.
via The Elway Poll
Most disconcerting for the pro-pot crowd is that Democrats seem to lack the conviction of their Republican counterparts: 60 percent of GOP respondents were "definitely opposed" with another 9 percent "inclined to oppose; only 38 percent of Dems were "definite" in their support, with 32 percent "inclined." Does that reflect the infighting that has hindered the marijuana-law-reform movement in recent years? Perhaps. Does it mean that Democrats will wuss out come election day if the ACLU's initiative makes the ballot? Not necessarily.
Other demographic splits were more predictable. Geezers over the age of 65 were overwhelmingly opposed, while young folks were almost uniformly in favor. Puget Sound voters were pro, people from rural areas anti. The respondents' yearly income had little bearing on their proclivity to support legal weed.
The other important caveat is that the Elway Poll is based on a microscopic sample size of 408 individuals. The margin of error was estimated at 5 percent, meaning that it is within the realm possibility that support for the ACLU's initiative is only 49 percent in favor, with 48 percent opposed. Those figures inspire significantly less hope.
On the other hand, a different poll conducted earlier this year by the Economist found that 58 percent of Americans (out of 1,000 polled) either agree or strongly agree that marijuana should be treated like alcohol and tobacco. Yet another study conducted five seconds ago by yours truly found that 76 percent of statistics are made up on the spot. Read the full methodology used in Elway's pot poll in PDF form, courtesy of the good people at PubliCola.
What do you think about treating pot like alcohol and tobacco?