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Voters may have hid attitude on marijuana

story from Talk Business, a TCW content partner

A Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll exploring voter attitudes for and against a recently defeated medical marijuana initiative indicates that changes to the measure could influence the future outcome of another vote on the topic.

The survey also shows that voters may be hiding their true preferences on the subject judging by the final poll and electoral results.

In a survey of 1,126 statewide registered voters who confirmed they voted on November 6, 2012, only 41% said they voted for medical marijuana, while 59% said they voted against the measure. The final statewide vote tally was unofficially 51% against the proposal and 49% for the ballot initiative titled Issue 5.

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this explanation of the initial poll results:
• Our polling on Issue 5 — both before the election and, even more interesting, afterwards — suggests a “stealth support” for the measure. Our large sample captured the Arkansas vote for President almost perfectly, but it showed about 9% lower support for Issue 5 than was shown in the actual election results.

• In politics, there is often a discussion of a “Bradley effect.” This refers back to the 1982 California Governor’s race when African-American Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley was shown to be ahead in pre-election surveys but lost in the election.

• This same result was reiterated in Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder’s close win in 1989 following polls indicating him in a strong position. More recently, measures on same-sex marriage have had pre-election polling that was more favorable to marriage equality than actual election results.

• Issue 5′s story suggests a “reverse Wilder effect” as some voters who support the measure seem to be hesitant to express this support to pollsters. In future elections on the issue, it will be important to keep this factor in mind as we poll on the issue in Arkansas.

POLL QUESTIONS

The statewide survey asked two questions of voters. First, they were asked if they supported or opposed the medical marijuana measure. Depending on their responses, they were directed to a follow-up question.
Did you vote for or against Issue 5, the proposal to legalize the medical use of marijuana in Arkansas?
41%     For
59%    Against

What was the main reason for your decision? (For those who voted “For”)
66%     It is a compassionate alternative for the sick who are in pain
22%     It is time to legalize marijuana
12%     Other

What was the main reason for your decision? (For those who voted “Against”)
45.5%     It is an illegal drug and should remain that way
28.5%     It is against my values or morals
16%        The measure needs to be better written
10%        Other

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“Whether medical marijuana has 41% or 49% support from voters, clearly 16% of opponents indicate they could be persuaded by a better written measure in the future,” said Roby Brock, executive editor of Talk Business. “Supporters will likely be buoyed by these results and those fighting the initiative must see that if it returns, they will have to work harder to defeat it in the future.”

Link here for more analysis of the survey results.

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