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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How Pot on the Ballot Gives Edge to Dems

At The National Journal, Alex Seitz-Wald’s “68 Percent More Likely to Turn Out If Measure to Legalize Pot Is on the Ballot” should be of considerable interest to state Democratic parties in their search for strategies to turn out younger voters in November. Seitz-Wald explains:

A new poll, conducted by a Democratic and Republican polling firm in partnership with George Washington University, suggests voters would be overwhelmingly more likely to go to the polls if they could vote on a ballot measure to legalize marijuana, something Democrats may want to keep in mind as they work to boost turnout.
Facing a tough map and perennial low turnout in midterms, Democrats are hoping to minimize losses in this year’s elections by enticing their voters to the polls in any way possible, which in some states includes marijuana liberalization. At least six states are expected to have marijuana questions on the ballot this year.
Colorado and Washington, which each had referenda to legalize the drug on the ballot in 2012, saw the youth share of the vote jump between 5 and 12 percentage points that year over 2008, even as it increased only marginally nationwide.
…The top response: “Much more likely,” an option selected by 39 percent of respondents. The next most popular choice was “somewhat more likely,” which garnered 30 percent of responses. Just 13 percent said they’d be somewhat or much less likely to vote, and 16 percent said it would make no difference.
Together, when rounded, that suggests that 68 percent of likely voters would be more likely to go to the polls if they could vote on a measure to legalize pot.

Further, adds Seitz-Wald, “A breakdown of the numbers provided to National Journal shows liberals are more enthusiastic than moderates or conservatives, with 76 percent saying they would be more likely to vote if marijuana legalization were on the ballot, compared with 64 percent of conservatives and 61 percent of moderates.”
As for caveats, Seitz-Wald notes, “While it worked in Colorado and Washington in 2012, a legalization referendum didn’t seem to help drive youth or liberal turnout in California in 2010. And medical marijuana, as opposed to full legalization, doesn’t seem to have any stimulative effect on youth turnout.”
And it’s not just younger voters, Seitz-Wald explains: “Indeed, the age breakdown on the GW poll found that voters between the ages of 45 and 64 were the most likely to express a strong preference for voting on a legalization ballot measure, although the overall numbers saying they were more likely to vote were roughly even across age ranges, except for those over 65.”
Seitz-Wald notes that there is not much time to get marijuana measures on ballots in November. Wherever it’s still possible, however, it appears that doing so has no down side for Democrats.

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