New Polling on Legalized Pot and Emissions Law in California
Lots of states now employ a system of ballot initiatives, but California’s propositions remain the most visible, often inspiring copycat political action and legislation across the country. In 1978 Proposition 13 lowered property taxes and required a two-thirds majority for the state legislature to raise taxes, presaging a tax revolt that would sweep the county. In 1994 Prop 187 restricted state services for illegal immigrants, in 2004 Prop 71 defied the Bush administration and provided major funding for stem cell research, and in 2008 Prop 8 amended the state constitution to deny same sex marriage.
This year it’s no different. The Public Policy Institute of California has new poll numbers that indicate how this year’s major propositions — regarding marijuana and the state’s greenhouse gas emissions law — are faring. Proposition 19 — which would legalize marijuana — is polling at above 50 percent (but just barely), while Proposition 23 — which would suspend California’s air pollution control law AB 32 — has supporters and detractors deadlocked in the mid-40s:
Among California’s likely voters, 52 percent favor the proposition to legalize marijuana. Strong majorities of independent (65%), Democratic (63%), and Latino (63%) likely voters support Proposition 19 when read the full ballot title and label, as do those age 18–34 (70%). Half of voters (49%) say the outcome of Proposition 19 is very important, with those opposed to the initiative feeling stronger about the outcome: 65 percent of those who plan to vote no say the outcome is very important, compared to 42 percent of likely voters who plan to vote yes.
Likely voters are divided on Proposition 23 (43% yes, 42% no, 15% don’t know), which would suspend California’s air pollution control law (AB 32) until unemployment falls to at least 5.5 percent for a full year. The divide is reflected across parties, regions, and demographic groups. Half of Democrats (48%) would vote no, a plurality of Republicans (45%) would vote yes, and independents are split (43% no, 42% yes).
Proponents of this measure—as well as the other propositions in the PPIC survey—have linked the outcome to economic recovery. Proposition 23’s advocates contend that AB 32 will cost the state large numbers of jobs in tough economic times, while opponents say the law encourages growth of green jobs. Asked what impact state actions to reduce global warming will have on jobs, a plurality (41%) of likely voters in the PPIC survey say the result will be more jobs, 24 percent say the number of jobs will not be affected, and 26 percent see fewer jobs as the result.
While Massachusetts quietly decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2008, making it a civil as opposed to criminal offense, California’s initiative to legalize marijuana would be a landmark decision. Meanwhile, opponents of Prop 23 can take heart in PPIC’s polling numbers indicating that a plurality of voters haven’t bought into the Yes-on-23 campaign’s rhetoric about the state’s greenhouse gas law being a job killer.
In the absence of national legislation to regulate greenhouse gases, Prop 23 is the closest thing environmentalists have to an active public debate about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the effect that policy would have on the economy. Defeating the measure would provide a small, but significant validation by public opinion of their argument that laws to limit carbon emissions can in fact grow the economy.