Poll: Marijuana legalization growing in popularity, higher threshold on ballot issues unpopular

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 1,970 views 

A measure to broaden the legalization of marijuana has majority support among Arkansas voters, while a legislative effort to raise the passage threshold for ballot initiatives to 60% is opposed by a majority of voters.

New polling from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College tested public opinion on the issue of recreational marijuana and a legislative-referred proposal to raise ballot issue passage from a simple majority to 60%. In the latest survey, 961 likely Arkansas voters were asked:

Q: What do you think should be the legal status of marijuana in Arkansas – legal for use by adults 21 and over, legal only for medical purposes, or broadly illegal for any reason?

53.5%  Legal for adults
32%     Medical only
10.5%  Illegal
4%       Don’t know

Q: Earlier this year, the state legislature referred several constitutional amendments to the ballot for consideration by Arkansas voters in the November 2022 general election. One proposal would alter the current provisions for the passage of citizen introduced constitutional amendments or initiated acts by imposing a 60% threshold for passage, rather than a majority of votes cast. If the election were held today, would you vote for or against this constitutional amendment?

6.5%   Definitely for
12.5% Probably for [19% for]
27%    Probably against
26%   Definitely against [53% against]
28%   Don’t know

“With the prospect that a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana could be on the ballot this fall, we wanted to test voter attitudes on the issue. We also are gauging opinions on the change that could dramatically alter the ballot and initiative process. On both measures, we get a clear read on where voters stand today,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics editor-in-chief.

The most recent Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll, conducted Feb. 7-8, 2022, has released results on the most popular Razorback coach, job approval ratings for Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Sen. John Boozman, and President Joe Biden, and a hypothetical matchup between Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her opponents. On Wednesday, the poll will release results of voter attitudes towards business vaccine mandates.

ANALYSIS
Talk Business & Politics seeks bipartisan input in the construction and analysis of its polls.

Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, is active in Democratic Party politics and helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“In this survey, we had the opportunity examine one issue that will definitely be on the ballot in November of 2022 and another that may be on the ballot if its proponents gain a sufficient number of signatures. The possible issue is definitely in better shape than the definite issue with Arkansas voters.

“Over our time of polling, perhaps no issue has shown more movement than have Arkansans’ attitudes on marijuana legalization. After an attempt at legalization of medical marijuana failed at the ballot box in 2012, Arkansas voters narrowly passed a revised proposal in 2016. While it took longer than expected for the marijuana bureaucracy—including certified growers and dispensaries—to be established, Arkansans have become used to the presence of visible, legal marijuana in the state. The question now is whether it is time for the next big step: the legalization of regulated recreational marijuana for adults in the state. Our survey suggests that Arkansas voters may be ready to take that step.

“However, while a slight majority of the state’s voters support recreational marijuana, there are variations across key voting groups although there is increasing consensus opposed to criminalization of the drug. Even among Republican voters, the most opposed to legalization at all, eight in ten support either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana. While a plurality of Republicans support stopping at medical marijuana as the policy of the state, very healthy majorities of Democrats (71%) and Independents (64%) support recreational marijuana. This may put Republican statewide candidates in a tough spot as they attempt to appeal to voters outside their party while maintaining their GOP base if the issue is before voters in the fall.

“Aside from political party, the greatest variation is shown across age groups. While seven in ten voters below 45 years support recreational marijuana and a slight majority of those 45 to 64 support the change, a plurality of the voters above 65 believe that maintaining the current legalization of medical marijuana only is the right place for the state’s policy. Men are also more supportive of recreational marijuana while women are more supportive of medical marijuana. Voters in the more rural First and Fourth Congressional Districts support medical marijuana, while those in the urban/suburban Second and Third Congressional Districts are supportive of recreational marijuana. Less variation is shown across racial and education subgroups although nonwhite voters tend to be slightly more supportive of recreational marijuana as are voters with a college degree.

“The issue definitely before voters would require a 60% majority of voters to vote in favor of ballot measures—constitutional amendments or initiated acts—initiated by petition of the people rather than the current simple majority of those casting a vote on the issue. A slight majority of voters are against this measure placed before voters by the General Assembly in 2021 while more than one in four of the voters are undecided. At this stage, there are few pockets of support for the measure. Those subgroups most opposed are Democrats and Independents, those with a college degree, male voters, and voters from the Second and Third Congressional Districts.”

Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group, which works with Republican political candidates, also helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“While this survey didn’t test a specific ballot proposal, a majority of Arkansas voters surveyed (53%) indicated they believe marijuana should be legal for adults 21 and over, mirroring the 53% that voted for medical marijuana in 2016. Perhaps even more significant is that only 10% of those surveyed said that marijuana should be illegal in all cases, demonstrating a general acceptance to the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

“As expected, support for adult use is higher among younger voters including 70% of those under 30 and 73% of those between 30-44. Positive sentiment for adult use starts to decline among voters 45-64, however, more than half (52%) still support it. Voters 65 and over had the lowest support for adult use, yet even among that group 36% supported it while 49% believed the current medical marijuana program was acceptable.

“Along party lines, a third (33%) of Republicans favored adult use compared to 46% for medical, and 19% who said marijuana should be illegal in all cases. Support for adult use was higher with both Democrats (71%) and independents (64%). Men are more accepting of legalizing marijuana, supporting it by 11 percentage points more than women.

“With multiple competing ballot measures in the works, it appears that proponents for legalization have a slight breeze at their sails at the outset.

“With 53% indicating they would vote against and only 19% for a 60% threshold for future ballot measures, the Arkansas state motto ‘Regnat Populus’ or ‘the people rule’ appears to be on brand. By the looks of it, the people want to keep it that way.

“Support for the proposal increases marginally with age, yet more than half of the oldest two age groups (53% and 56% respectively) indicated they would vote against the amendment. Opposition is the prevailing view among Republicans (26%/46%), Democrats (14%/59%), and independents (17%/62%), among both college-educated and non-college educated voters, and both men and women. Notably 34% of men indicate they are ‘definitely against’ the proposal.

“At this current stage, voters seem simply disinclined to take away their own power at the ballot box. Efforts to pass this measure will need a well-financed messaging campaign to convince the electorate that this is in their best interest, because as of right now, it’s clear that they don’t.”

METHODOLOGY
This survey of 961 likely general election voters was conducted Feb. 7-8, 2022, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Responses were collected via SMS to an online survey and by phone. The poll is slightly weighted to account for key demographics including age, ethnicity, education, and gender.

Age
Under 30 – 5%
Between 30-44 – 25%
Between 45-64 – 40%
65 and over – 30%

Race
Black 9%
Asian 1%
White 83.5%
Hispanic 1%
Other 5.5%

Party affiliation
Democrat 25.5%
Independent 27.5%
Republican 38%
Other 9%

Gender
Female 52%
Male 48%

Education
College graduate 40%
Non-college graduate 60%

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College. A link back to this specific story is also required for any digital or online usage by other media outlets.

For interviews, contact Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock by email at [email protected]