Polls

Obama Courts Old Republican Church Ladies

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Although President Obama thinks the very idea is hilarious, recent polls pretty consistently find that more than two-fifths of Americans support marijuana legalization. Last month's Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey fits that pattern, finding that 41 percent of Americans favor "the legalization of small amounts of marijuana for personal use," compared to 44 percent who oppose that policy. Support was stronger among independents and Democrats (48 percent for both) than it was among Republicans (32 percent) or Tea Party supporters (35 percent). Not surprisingly, self-identified "libertarians" were more than twice as likely to support legalization as self-identified "conservatives," with "moderates," "liberals," and "progressives" falling in between. There was not much variation between income groups or groups with different levels of education (except for those without high school diplomas, only one-third of whom favored legalization). But the gender gap on this question is striking: Forty-nine percent of men supported legalization vs. 34 percent of women. Likewise the generation gap: Only 23 percent of those 65 and older supported legalization; support was twice as high among respondents younger than 55. Religious attendance also was inversely related to support for legalization: Fifty-seven percent of respondents reporting "low" attendance were pot-tolerant, compared to 26 percent of those reporting "high" attendance. I suspect old Republican women who go to church a lot are the group least sympathetic to this cause.

A couple of caveats: Two-thirds of respondents said the government was either "involved about the right amount" or "not involved enough" with "recreational drug use," which is logically inconsistent with legalizing pot. Furthermore, the description of legalization used in the survey suggests a policy in which all penalties for possessing small quantities of pot are eliminated (as opposed to "decriminalization," which usually means treating possession as an offense on par with a traffic violation). It's not clear where the respondents thought pot smokers would be getting their marijuana, since the formulation used in the survey does not address cultivation or sales. But broader wording might not have turned people off, since other polls have found strong support for treating marijuana "like tobacco and alcohol."

The Reason-Rupe results are also consistent with the findings of other surveys on the question of medical marijuana. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said the issue should be left to the states, which neither the Bush administration nor the Obama administration has been willing to do in practice (although Obama promised he would and even pretended to follow through on that promise). Support for a federalist approach to the issue was stronger among Tea Party supporters (76 percent) than it was among Republicans (64 percent), independents (65 percent), or Democrats (69 percent). Those numbers, combined with the Tea Party responses on the question regarding legalization for recreational purposes, suggest that the movement really does include quite a few principled federalists who may not care for marijuana but nevertheless think states should decide for themselves whether medical use will be legal within their borders. Support for that approach is about as strong among "moderates" and "independents" as it is among the general population, and it is even stronger among registered Democrats.

That pattern reinforces my point about the dubious political logic of continuing to raid medical marijuana dispensaries while declaring that complying with state law offers no protection from federal prosecution. The poll did not explore the strength of people's feelings about medical marijuana, and it's possible that the minority of independents and moderates who support the crackdown are more likely to vote based on that issue than the large majorities who say the feds should stop interfering. But I doubt that Obama's ambiguous, contradictory policy is based on that theory. Why bother promising tolerance of medical marijuana if you're not worried about the votes of people who support that policy? Why make a big show of delivering on that promise, then take it all back, such that your policy is indistinguishable from your predecessor's? The administration's handling of this issue has been so sloppy and confusing that it suggests apathy and incompetence, as opposed to a carefully considered plan to maximize votes. My guess is that Obama simply doesn't care enough about this issue or its electoral implications to rein in the drug warriors at the DEA and the Justice Department who favor the status quo.

The main Reason-Rupe results are here. More details here.

NEXT: Instapundit, Michael Barone: No Frontrunners, Just Runners for GOP Nod

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  1. But the gender gap on this question is striking: Forty-nine percent of men supported legalization vs. 34 percent of women.

    Women hate us for our freedom.

    1. A lot of marriages do seem like a form of terrorism…

    2. More proof that ALL constitutional amendments from the progressive era should be on the chopping block….

    3. They’ve been bred to submit to paternal figures for centuries, not really a shock that they can’t shake the mental chains even once the legal ones are broken.

      1. They’ve been bred to submit to paternal figures for centuries, not really a shock that they can’t shake the mental chains even once the legal ones are broken.

        I agree. It’s all the mens fault. We should never have given them the right to vote.

        Ah well, lesson learned.

        1. Well, I’ve always thought that this would be a more libertarian country if women couldn’t vote. And “more libertarian” to me equates with “better.” Therefore, I am a patriarchal jackass, I suppose.

      2. How can you breed women without also breeding men?

    4. Women hate us for our freedom.

      There’s a reason the prohibition group isn’t called D.A.D.D.

  2. Two-thirds of respondents said the government was either “involved about the right amount” or “not involved enough” with “recreational drug use,” which is logically inconsistent with legalizing pot.

    Well, perhaps they want farm subsidies for growing taxed legal pot, and pot stamps for the poor to buy the farm subsidized high price highly taxed legal pot?

    1. Good Point. I would call you “Master of the obvious”, but apparently that wasn’t obvious to the author.

  3. I hate to get all No True Scotsman, but I don’t think you can be against legalization an still call yourself a libertarian. Unless your a hipster doing it ironically.

    1. I was for the legalization before I was against it

    2. That’s what I thought when I read that. I try to avoid purity tests, but if there is one for libertarianism, drug legalization is a good one (assuming that you favor legalization for personal freedom reasons).

    3. goddamn, don’t bring up the hipster libertarians. The mention of them makes my blood boil.

    4. Those utilitarian, consequential, Natural Rights-denying “libertarians” would be all for “double WoDs” if the consequences were substantially worse than the status quo.

    5. I was thinking the same thing. For things like abortion and IP I think there’s a reasonable libertarian argument on both sides, but for the legalization of small amounts of marijuana, I can’t see a libertarian position against.

      1. People don’t necessarily label themselves “libertarian” because they decide all issues on the basis of individual liberty, or because they let no other considerations trump that of individual liberty. I’m sure many of them look at their own positions on various issues, then see what label applies most closely to that combination of positions.

        It’s like if you look from a distance at something that, viewed close up, could be seen as speckled yellow & blue, and seeing it as green. There’s no actual green on it, but that’s how it comes out.

  4. If you don’t like drugs, don’t use them.

    1. If you don’t like my ass, you are not a member of the Nueva York Jets.

      1. I was the greatest Doyer of all time.

  5. SATANs weed! EVIL! org-gies, wild dancing, herion, SOMALIA!

    1. Well isn’t that speciaal…..

  6. “Why make a big show of delivering on that promise, then take it all back, such that your policy is indistinguishable from your predecessor’s? ”

    He knows he has the dumbass hipster vote in the bag, so to speak. My wife’s leftist, Bush-hating friends have not taken down their Obama posters in the wake of this issue, Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo, etc.

    1. My favorite were the morons who spent $50,000 to attend a fundraising dinner so they could sing a song about how much they hated what Obama was doing to Bradley Manning– but that they’d vote for him anyway.

      “”Each of us brought you $5,000 ? we’ll vote for you in 2012, yes that’s true. Look at the Republicans, what else can we do,” the group sang”

      So there’s no need for him to take these people seriously.

      1. There’s no need for -anyone- to take these people seriously.

    2. Yep, that’s it exactly. I don’t know how I ended up with so many of my friends being lefty hipsters, but it seems like they ALL voted for Obama, and will do so again. Discussing anything about his admin with them is futile. Especially enraging to them is noting how O continues various Bush policies/practices. “BUT BUSH…” “I didn’t like Bush either..” “BUT, BUT….SOMALIA!”

      More than “I am disappoint”, I am “don’t understand. At all. Seriously.” Whatever.

      1. I gave up talking politics with my progressive friends. It is just an emotional team sport with them. They don’t really have any core beliefs, so I decided not to waste my time anymore.

        1. But don’t you see that makes them really easy to lead in any direction? All you have to do is become their leader. That means first pretend to be a follower, then work your way into a position of iinfluence, and then a higher position of influence, etc. Then you can make them pretend to believe anything.

          1. Using the Republicans own trick against them. That is my thought. The Republican voting base is a bunch of redneck morons just as the Libertarian and Democratic bases are hipster morons. We need to embrace the fact that 75% of the country are morons and lead them.

  7. I think the last sentence of the article gets at the biggest obstacle. The DEA and other law enforcement agencies have tremendous incentives (jobs, $$, extraordinary police powers) to maintain the status quo or even ratchet it up a few notches.

    1. and the prison guards

      1. and the construction companies that build the prisons…and the manufacturers of the steel bars, the concertina wire, the closed-circuit camers systems, the manufacturers of switches, the people who build the roads to the prisons, the farmer that produces food to sell to the prison system (at inflated prices), the Mexican who picks fruit, the unicorn herder and the tooth fairy.

        Face it, the WOD is the greatest stimulus program ever devised!

        1. Imagine how bad unemployment would be otherwise!

  8. He knows it’s extremely unlikely the Republican nominee will scold him for being too draconian on drugs.

  9. The problem is “public opinion” polls are easily manipulated by those with an agenda, both in the way the questions are phrased and the way the results are presented.

    Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! had an episode about pollsters’ bullshit.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=If9EWDB_zK4

    1. I love that show for entertainment value, but their logic is allways more bullshit than what they are trying to disprove.

  10. Ever notice how the left gets religious whenever they want to advance their agenda? Obama quoted the book of Exodus to describe the plight of illegal aliens. Now I’m willing to be fair, if the Mexican illegal want to wander in the desert for 40 years I’m willing to let their children have greencards. I mention Mexicans because Canadians don’t generally come here as illegal aliens.

    http://libertarians4freedom.blogspot.com/

    1. Can you do us a favor and talk to the old GOP ladies at your church, Grego? Seems they’re a big part of the stumbling block here.

    2. The left getting religious is not unusual. Ever heard of liberation theology? Or the United Church of Christ? Or Unitarians (OK, that might not count as religious)?

    3. If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black I don’t know what is. The right are the religeous fanatics. Most of the time when the left uses religion it’s just so that the right can relate to what they are talking about.

  11. The administration’s handling of this issue has been so sloppy and confusing that it suggests apathy and incompetence

    Come on, Jacob; Harvard Constitutional Scholars cannot be expected to consider the real-world consequences of laws.

  12. Waiting for Juanita to show up…

  13. I’ve had some extremely frustrating arguments with my lefty friends and have come to the same conclusion of other commenters here. The only issue that matters to Democrats at the voting booth is “Not Republican.”

    Obama can speak out of both sides of his mouth all he wants, it won’t sway anyone of the “Believers” either way.

    1. Well, “not republican” is a good start, perhaps, if they can progress to “not democrat” as well.

      1. I’m all for “not Republican” and “not Democrat,” not so much for “not republican” and “not democrat.”

    2. And come Sunday all the Rapturites will still believe.

    3. The only issue that matters to Democrats at the voting booth is “Not Republican.”

      Too bad Democrats don’t even meet that criteria. At least not in anything but name.

  14. Support was stronger among independents and Democrats (48 percent for both) than it was among Republicans (32 percent) or Tea Party supporters (35 percent).

    So sad. The TPers are apparently reverting to being regular old social cons.

    1. Wait, what? isn’t the standard narrative that TPers are more socon than Republicans?

  15. People killed by pot – 0
    People killed by cops – big number
    People in jail for pot – big number

    What drives me nuts are the people who HAVE gotten high in the past (Daniels, etc.) who are drug warriors. Anyone who has gotten high knows pot does NOT kill. Hell, how many people even get in fights while stoned? Is a drug that makes a person more likely to laugh, play videogames, and snack really that big of a menace?

    I just don’t understand the disconnect, but I’m thinking it’s because it’s SMOKED. Smoking is bad. Therefore, smoking pot must be really really bad.

    Who are we kidding? In a country where citizens feel free legislating what their fellow citizens can eat, how the hell are we going to get something like pot legalized.

    1. Loperamide worked its way over some years from schedule 1-N down thru progressively looser controls until it became an over-the-counter drug. You probably know it as Imodium AD. Gold went from contraband to legal to own & possess. If it could be done with loperamide and gold, it can be done with anything.

  16. In the old days we had Wets and Drys. We need quick, catchy terms for the groups in this issue.

    I suggest Highs and Lows. Or Mellows and Uptights.

  17. The administration’s handling of this issue has been so sloppy and confusing that it suggests apathy and incompetence, as opposed to a carefully considered plan to maximize votes.

    I think it is more that Obama feels he can fuck over leftists and still get their votes because of Team Blue loyalty, so he’s pandering to social conservatives to try to get to 50%+.

    That, and ending the federal drug war would mean firing a lot of federal employees, pissing off members of a reliably Democratic voting bloc.

    1. Name even one department of the federal government that Obama has fired employees from, no matter how obnoxiously Republican-ish their job duties are. He just won’t shrink any part of the fed work force, because those employees are his base.

      1. Now, now. The Obama administration has dramatically shrunk the federal employment rolls in the past 6 months, shedding tens of thousands federal workers. Didn’t you see the press release that said that was the only reason unemployment went up in the spring?

        IIRC, and I do, those people were all the same temp census workers Obama used as props to lower unemployment #’s throughout 2010 and claim the economy was on the right track due to his amazing intellect.

    2. “…Support was stronger among independents and Democrats (48 percent for both)…”

      That says that the majority of Democrat voters either support keeping marijuana illegal or have no opinion on the issue, how is Obama screwing those people over?

  18. Why not legalize Marijuana??? Everyone already smokes anyways…and have you ever heard of anyone killing anyone in a car accident because they were high from smoking Marijuana…no but you hear every day of people dying from drunk driving, yet alcohol is legal *sideways face* makes no sense. If the government wants to do something about saving lives then alcohol needs to be illegal.

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