Oct 222010

California’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative, Proposition 19, is trailing badly, according to a new Los Angeles Times/USC poll, which found likely voters opposing the measure 51% to 39%.

Until recently, the initiative had led in most polls with support from about half of the electorate, John Hoeffel reports in the Los Angeles Times. But supporters of the initiative have not raised enough money to run the television advertisements needed to reach voters across the state. Opponents of the measure have also not run an active television campaign, but historically, the burden of persuading voters usually falls to the proponents.

Top candidates for statewide office have opposed the measure. As the Times/USC poll was being conducted last week, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration would “vigorously enforce” federal narcotics laws, even if the measure passes, and “is considering all available legal and policy options.”

The poll, a joint effort by The Times and USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, found the measure favored by Democrats and independents, but overwhelmingly opposed by Republicans. Men were split, and women were leaning against it.

Both sides consider mothers a key swing vote and have debated whether the measure would do more to keep marijuana out of the hands of children or would increase use.

Likely voters younger than 40 are in favor of it by 48% to 37%, but older voters, who say they are more enthusiastic about voting in this election, are not. Among likely voters 65 and over, only 28% support the measure, while 59% said they were opposed.

The measure, which needs a majority vote to pass, would allow Californians who are at least 21 to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana and possess up to an ounce. Cities and counties could authorize commercial cultivation and sales, and could impose taxes.

Some polls have shown Latino voters, initially against legalization, swinging toward it, but the Times/USC poll found they are opposed to it by 2 to 1. White voters also oppose the measure.

Supporters of legalization have sought to appeal to minorities by highlighting statistics showing that they are arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites. Opponents note that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger already has signed a law making possession of an ounce an infraction.

The poll found Proposition 19 leading only in the Central Coast counties and running far behind in the largely conservative Central Valley and in Southern California.

The Times/USC poll surveyed 441 likely voters about Proposition 19 by telephone, including both cellphones and landlines, between Oct. 13 and Oct. 20. The margin of error for the sample is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. The poll was conducted for The Times and USC by two polling firms, the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and the Republican firm American Viewpoint.

The poll is the second public survey this week to find Proposition 19 failing. Earlier this week, the Public Policy Institute of California released a poll that had the initiative falling short, with 44% for it and 49% opposed, a turnaround from a poll in September that had showed Proposition 19 with majority support.

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