Do Black Voters Want to Legalize Marijuana?

As the campaigns for and against California's marijuana-legalizing Proposition 19 heat up, a big question mark still hangs over a vital factor in the initiative's fate: How popular is it among minorities, and specifically among black voters?

Notes prince-among-pollsters Nate Silver on, the most recent round of polls on support for Prop. 19 offers conspicuously variant results, mostly as a result of wide swings in the polls' gauging of sentiment among black and Latino voters. Public Policy Polling (PPP) has Prop. 19 up by 36 points among blacks, for example, while the Field Poll has it trailing by 12 points in the same demographic set.

What could account for this 48-point discrepancy?

Silver, observing that polls conducted by automated robots seem to be showing more support for Prop. 19 among black voters than those done by real people, posits a variant on the Bradley Effect that he dubs the "Broadus Effect." (The Bradley Effect holds that pre-election polls can be skewed by voters who give pollsters politically correct answers, rather than revealing what they really think. )

snoop dogg 1.jpg
Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Dogg
According to Silver's "Broadus Effect" -- named after gin, juice, and pot aficionado Calvin Broadus, better known to the world as Snoop Dogg -- black voters may be more inclined to reveal their support for marijuana legalization to an anonymous robo-pollster, rather than a human being. Silver muses:

This might also explain why the split is larger among black and Hispanic voters. Marijuana usage is almost certainly more stigmatized when associated with minorities, and drug possession arrests occur much more frequently in minority communities. This is in spite of the fact that rates of marijuana consumption are only a smidgen higher among blacks than among whites, and are somewhat lower among Hispanics.

Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University, who mounted the campaign to get a marijuana-legalization initiative on the 2010 ballot, told us that he tends to think the polls showing higher support for Prop. 19 among minority voters are more accurate. (No surprise there.) Lee said these polls are more in line with the campaign's internal polling, and that the California NAACP's recent, controversial endorsement of the measure could have swayed some black voters to look favorably upon marijuana legalization.

Marijuana leaf image by cooljuno411.

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