By "Radical" Russ Belville
Backers of an Oregon measure to regulate the buying and selling of medical marijuana commissioned a poll to determine the effect of the question on young, progressive voters inclined to sit out the election. Pollsters quizzed 400 Oregonians who described themselves as Democrats or independents and rated their interest in the midterm election between one and five on a scale to ten. Half of the voters were given information about Measure 74 and the other half were told about the race for governor, currently a dead heat between Democrat John Kitzhaber and Republican Chris Dudley.
Voters told about the pot initiative were more than twice as likely to increase their interest voting — which, in Oregon, is done by mail.
Unlikely voters who were told about the pot initiative increased their interest in vote by an average of 3.5 points on the ten-point scale. By a margin of 62 to 21, they overwhelmingly support the measure and at a rate of 50 to 23, they prefer the Democratic candidate for governor. Both candidates, however, have spoken against the pot measure.
Motivating young people to engage in politics, especially in an off-year, midterm election, is no simple matter. But the Oregon survey reflects what political operatives have found in California, Colorado and Washington state.
Kitzhaber and Dudley in Oregon and Brown and Whitman in California, the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor, respectively, in the two most pot-friendly states in the nation, can’t bring themselves to support the marijuana measures. Democrats continue to play “who else ya gonna vote for?” to their young, progressive base and Republicans are tone deaf to their increasing Libertarian base that has always supported legalization.
With Oregon’s vote-by-mail system (seriously, other 49 states, you’ve got to enact this!) voter turnout is always among the tops in the nation. We receive candidate and issue booklets from the Secretary of State weeks before voting so we can learn about the election before we receive the ballot in the mail. I believe we’ll see record turnout for a midterm election thanks to the marijuana measures.
You can follow all of the election night coverage of Legalization in America at http://live.norml.org on November 2nd, where we’ll be streaming live from Prop 19 headquarters in Oakland, California.
We’ll also have special reports from Oregon, Arizona, and South Dakota on their marijuana measures, plus updates on local referendums in various cities.