Growing number of California voters turn against two controversial initiatives: poll

08:50, October 22, 2010      

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A growing number of voters in the U.S. State of California have turned against controversial initiatives to legalize marijuana and to suspend the state's global warming law, according to a newly published poll.

Of those polled, 49 percent are against Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization measure, while 44 percent are in favor of it, according to the poll published by Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

As for Proposition 23, a measure to halt a law that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions, 48 percent are against and 37 percent are in favor, said the poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The poll indicated that opposition has surged since September, when 52 percent of likely voters backed Proposition 19, and they split evenly over Proposition 23.

Proposition 19 would allow Californians who are 21 and older to grow and possess marijuana, while cities and counties could authorize commercial cultivation, sales and taxation.

The latest poll found support for Proposition 19 had eroded significantly across all demographic groups, but most steeply among Latino voters. In September, 63 percent backed it. Now, 51 percent oppose it.

Mark Baldassare, PPIC's pollster, said in remarks published by The Times that the drop may have come because of a barely visible campaign.

He noted that the proponents to Proposition 19 have to persuade voters that people like them support the initiative. "The burden of proof is always on the yes side," he said.

He also said that opponents seemed more passionate about the issue. Among likely voters who said the legalization issue was very important to them, 33 percent planned to vote for it and 63 percent against it.

Baldassare also said the poll found no indication that young people were more enthused about marijuana legalization than older voters. Democrats have started to talk about using the issue as a way to motivate young voters in 2012.

Proposition 23 would suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act, which was passed in 2006, until unemployment in the state drops to 5.5 percent for at least a year -- a level that has rarely been achieved for that duration. Joblessness in the state is now more than 12 percent.

A statewide television blitz by opponents has painted the initiative as a "deceptive scheme" bankrolled by "two Texas oil companies." The companies, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., would "pollute our air, kill clean energy jobs and keep us addicted to costly oil," the TV spots charged.

The message may have resonated. "The voters are very cynical about initiatives," Baldassare said. "They assume that there is some interest group that is behind it unless they hear otherwise."



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