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KUNC's guide to Election 2012 in Colorado and the Colorado vote. Additional guides include a detailed look at Amendment 64, Amendment 65, and a look at Amendment S. You can find our archive of national election coverage here.

Amendment 64: Do Polls Really Predict Success?

Ocean Yamaha
Creative Commons

A new Denver Post poll is showing that 51 percent of likely voters support Amendment 64 compared to 40 percent opposed. The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act would legalize small amounts of marijuana for people over 21. But polling on this and other so- called “hard issues” isn’t as reliable as you might think compared to polls on topics like abortion.

Editor's Note: This story is part of a three part series on Amendment 64 covering pollingfunding and the legalization question.

KUNC’s Grace Hood sat down with Colorado State University Political science professor Kyle Saunders to find what could be shaping voters’ attitudes on the topic, and what might change them.


HOOD: I wanted to start out by talking about this really interesting comparison point that a lot of people cite when they’re talking about polls or marijuana, and that was poll done 3 months before California’s 2010 vote on the topic and it was pretty favorable in terms of voter support.

SAUNDERS: Around 52 percent of people supported the measure and then it ended up losing by 8 points—54 to 46. First off that was a poll done three months in advance. So a lot of things changed, and political actors could get involved. But it also indicates this is more of an issue that isn’t discussed nearly as much. And once it is discussed it tends to be discussed among those peer groups that socialize and tend to pull people back into the conservative direction. That’s what happens often on social issues. Now it’s often the case that social issues are more salient during times of economic growth and when economic times are good.

HOOD: What seems to be relatively new in terms of talking about marijuana legalization is the fact that we’re starting to see these political players who are taking stances on the issue.

SAUNDERS: Office holders talking positions against it, I think that will bias some people especially those people who are starting to consider the issue. When you see Gov. Hickenlooper come out against it, he’s a major figure in the Democartic Party in the state of Colorado. And if he comes out against it those Democrats and even Independent voters who really he has a very high approval rating, they think a lot about what he thinks as a political actor. And that can really damage if you are a pro legalization of marijuana supporter.

HOOD:  I think that’s interesting you’ve identified factors that could work against the measure. One factor that could work in favor of it, is if younger voters turn out to the polls. I guess we’ll have to wait until November to see which one is more powerful.

SAUNDERS: And more than likely I think there is a bias to the status quo—especially these social issues. That will continue. And I think that’s what you saw in California in 2010 with their measure. And that could happen here as well.

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