Polls in Colorado Are Getting It Wrong

At least two recent polls suggest Coloradans are unhappy with legal weed and think it was a mistake. But these polls are deeply flawed in their assessment of statewide opinion – and their results don’t really matter anyway.

In September, a poll by USA Today and Suffolk University found half of likely voters in Colorado think legalization was a bad move. Just 46 percent disagreed. A survey in October found less than half of likely voters support legal pot, though the number is larger than those who oppose it.

colorado marijuanaBut here’s the thing about legalization in Colorado: No one will be voting on it Nov. 4. So it doesn’t matter what “likely” voters think. What matters is what all residents of the state believe. And other polls from earlier this year suggest they believe weed should remain legal.

Pollsters typically switch from querying registered voters to querying likely voters shortly before an election. That’s because it’s clearer by then who will probably vote, and polling likely voters can provide a more accurate result.

But likely voters won’t be deciding anything marijuana-related at the ballot box this year. Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposes reform, is running for reelection in a tight race against a right-wing Republican who wants to repeal the law passed in 2012. But that doesn’t say anything about approval for recreational pot.

Amendment 64, the initiative that legalized cannabis, got 55 percent of the vote two years ago. That’s a wide margin, and it’s unlikely the backlash has been so severe that most Coloradans now oppose reform and want it repealed.

Indeed, polls rarely ask voters whether they favor repeal or just regret some of the effects of the new law. There has been no major political movement in Colorado pushing for repeal, only deep-red state politicians, especially those from rural areas where legalization is less popular.

handful marijuanaThe use of likely voters can dramatically change the results of any polling. Likely voters tend to be whiter, more male, older, and more conservative than registered voters, especially in midterm elections. That means they’re much more likely to oppose liberal or libertarian programs such as marijuana reform.

Likely voters also tend to paint a more accurate picture in the weeks leading up to an election. But that simply doesn’t matter when it comes to legalization this year. No reform initiatives are on the ballot. Nor are any efforts to recriminalize weed.

Marijuana elections may draw more voters than other contests, including the votes of more young people, who are highly likely to support reform and oppose repeal. In other words, “likely” voters this year aren’t the same as “likely “ voters during an election with cannabis on the ballot.

About Brian Ellis

With 6 years' experience in business journalism, Brian is the person we turn to for anything related to the business of cannabis. His news coverage spans topics including marijuana business and finance. Brian's work features on marijuanareferral.com, marijuanamerchantaccount.com and marijuanainsuranceagent.com.