Nate Silver from Breaks Down Prop. 19 Polls

The Broadus Effect? Social Desirability Bias and California Proposition 19

by Nate Silver

This November, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, which would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for recreational consumption. Six polls have been conducted since the measure made the ballot in March. Three — one from Public Policy Polling and two from SurveyUSA — used automated scripts (“robopolls”) to conduct their interviews. The other three, from Field, PPIC, and Reuters/Ipsos — used live human operators.

The methodologies split in the support they show for the initiative. The three automated surveys all have Prop 19 passing by a double-digit margin. The human-operator polls, meanwhile, each show it trailing narrowly.

Although some of these polls contain incomplete demographic information, the split appears to be driven more by minority voters than by whites. The three automated polls each show the initiative leading by between 28 and 38 among black voters, for instance. But the one traditional poll to break out numbers among African-Americans had it trailing by 12.

Likewise, the traditional polls show Proposition 19 trailing by about 25 points among Hispanics. But the robopolls show support among Hispanics being about even. Even though the margins of error associated with these subgroups are quite large — especially for blacks, who constitute a relatively small portion of California’s population — the differences are highly statistically significant.

These effects are also evident in two recent national polls on marijuana legalization, fromRasmussen (automated) and Pew (human), respectively. Although Rasmussen’s robots posit higher support for marijuana legalization among all racial groups, the differences are much larger for blacks and Hispanics (which Rasmussen lumps into “other” along with groups like Asians).

There are a couple of reasons why these discrepancies might have arisen. One might be that the automated surveys are having difficulty getting a representative sample of minorities. Automated surveys generally have lower response rates, and that impact may be most felt among minorities, who are usually harder to get on the phone.

Nevertheless, this is a relatively highly-rated group of automated surveys, particularly SurveyUSA and PPP, which don’t take as many of the shortcuts that some of their competitors do. And so it raises another possibility:

What if voters are more likely to admit their tolerance for marijuana to an automated script, which may create the feeling of greater anonymity? Marijuana usage remains fairly stigmatized in polite society in America, enough so that even liberal politicians like Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Brown and Barack Obama have refused to state their support for legalizing the drug. But as most Americans between ages 20 and 55 have smoked marijuana, they may not consider it such a big deal in the privacy of their homes — or the privacy of the ballot booth.

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. (Although, note that the link I just pointed you to is also based on survey data, and so could be subject to some of the same biases.)

Perhaps this hypothesis is overstated, and drug use does not carry the same stigma in California that it does elsewhere in the country. When I visited San Francisco for four days last winter, I twice saw people quite nonchalantly smoking joints in bars, something you’ll only see once in a blue moon in New York or Chicago (or maybe I’ve just been going out to the wrong places).

Nevertheless, it’s possible that we’re seeing some sort of Bradley effect in reverse, which I’ve reluctantly dubbed the “Broadus Effect” after the given name of the rapper Snoop Dogg, himself a frequent consumer of cannabinoid-rich products.

The original Bradley Effect, named for former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, occurs when respondents in surveys are asked about socially desirable behaviors, such as being free from racial prejudice. Although the racial version of Bradley effect itself isprobably a thing of the past, social desirability bias may manifest itself in other ways. Automated polls have sometimes shown relatively lower levels support for gay marriage initiatives, for instance, in states like Maine and California. Homophobia is fairly common, but has become socially undesirable; the purveyors of the automated polls have sometimes claimed that their respondents are free to be more honest when there’s not another human being on the line. If the theory holds, automated polls might also provide a setting for voters to be more honest about their feelings on marijuana use, another behavior that is probably more widespread (and privately tolerated) than it is socially acceptable. If so, that would be good news for Prop 19.

Great Breakdown on Prop 19 by Radical Russ on NORML blog

Here is a brief exceprt of some good points. Read the whole breakdown here:
  • the smell of marijuana on your person is no longer probable cause to search you;
  • that joint in your pocket means nothing;
  • the seizure of stems, leaves, and seeds from your trash is irrelevant;
  • a couple of baggies with weed residue in them are just garbage;
  • the sight of that bong on your table visible through the kitchen window isn’t a “welcome” mat for a police search;
  • your utility bills raising a bit for water and lights don’t matter;
  • your neighbors smelling skunky plants is just a nuisance, not the source for an “anonymous tip”;
  • receipts for lights, soil, fertilizer, ballasts, trimmers, and stuff are meaningless;
  • infrared signatures of your home aren’t evidence of anything;
  • marijuana sniffing K-9 units are out of a job; and
  • pre-employment drug testing programs become harder for businesses to maintain for cannabis.

Another word on Jack and Prop. 19 from Chris Conrad

I love Chris Conrad for his dedication to this cause, his always spot-on insight and his ability to see both sides of an argument and make sense on any number of valid topics. Below is a letter from him regarding Jack Herer and his evolving opinion. God Bless you, jack. Obviously you are missed greatly….

Dear colleagues,

To go by the credo, “What would Jack do?” you must understand that Jack evolved and over time changed his positions on many things. He was against something until he was for it, but somehow he got credit for the very thing he had previously opposed. Here are just a few examples:

Jack told his first wife that if she ever brought marijuana into his house he would leave her and get a divorce. Now he’s characterized as the patron saint of marijuana activists.

Jack didn’t want to revise and publish the Emperor Wears No Clothes in 1990, he wanted to do a book about sex, language and religion. Now, the Emperor is called “the Bible of the hemp movement.”

Jack may have been a tax resistor, but this is the Cannabis movement not the anti-tax movement, and when we (I was co-author) wrote the original California Hemp Initiative in 1990, it provided for an excise tax. Jack insisted in 1990 that pot should be legal for people aged 18, but by 1994 we set it at 21.

Jack vehemently argued against forming the Hemp Industries Association. He likened it to the DEA and called us traitors for passing its bylaws. But he loved getting free hemp products from HIA member businesses and when we sued DEA and saved hemp foods, Jack was quite happy.

Initially Jack deeply hated Prop 215. He literally stumped up and down the state cursing out hemp activists who backed it. He screamed at us, called us traitors for working on medical use, and claimed that Dennnis Peron was secretly against legalization. When 215 was filed, Jack filed the California Hemp Initiative (CHI) on the 1996 ballot to block it. and changed the name to “California Hemp _and Health_ Initiative” so people signing it would think they had signed Prop 215, to mess with the signature count. When I called him on it, he said he was trying to keep Prop 215 off the ballot because, among other things, “people will stop working for legalization and we’ll be stuck with medical forever. No hemp, no legalization; that will be the end.” Later he circulated the CCU petitions for pay, then before the election came to support it completely. Now some people actually credit Jack for ‘passing Prop 215.’
Jack vociferously opposed Senate Bill 420, but he loved the dispensaries it allowed to open.

If the movement had done what Jack first said to do, we would not have made the major political gains of the last 20 years, because he espoused ‘all or nothing.’ Jack knew how to come around, but first he had to cuss everyone out. So of course he railed against TaxCannabis 2010. That was what Jack did.

The pattern is clear, though. Jack would never support the HIA, then he did. He would never support Prop 215, then he did. He opposed SB420, then he loved its results. He said he would never support Prop 19, but were it not for his heart attack, by now Jack would have come around to back it.

Jack would never, ever walk into a voting booth and vote to keep prohibition as it is.

He would see the writing on the wall once the Secretary of State said Prop 19 qualified for the ballot. He would have complained, he would demand that we pass CHI in 2012, but Jack would hold his nose and vote yes. The problem is thatJack Herer died before he came to support Prop 19, otherwise he would tell you so himself. Do we let his death mean the death of legal marijuana? I say no.

So let’s do what Jack really would have ended up doing, and give TaxCannabis unwavering support. We can later improve on Prop 19 — but not unless we pass it first.  Support and vote “Yes on Prop 19.”

— Chris Conrad, editor and designer of the 1990 Emperor Wears No Clothes, friend of Jack Herer

What Would Jack Do? He would vote for Prop. 19!!!

There has been so much speculation regarding Jack Herer and whether or not he would vote for Prop. 19. As this question is continually brought up by those who point to his last fiery speech at Hempstalk where he passionately states, “I don’t want to give one fucking dime of taxes….” as a clear referendum on his disapproval of Prop 19. Many of the interest protecting opposition try to lay the burden of a vote to legalize cannabis on the doorstep of a dead man (RIP) to tug at the heart string of a movement. One of Jack’s close friends and ongoing friend of the family, Todd McCormick, wrote this to clarify the point and reiterate what I believed all along…JACK WOULD NEVER CAST A NO VOTE AGAINST CANNABIS REFORM. The family may be issuing an official endorsement statement on his behalf in the near future. Below is what Todd had to say to those who doubt Jack…

Todd McCormick wrote:

As I sit here editing the next edition of ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes’ and reading this missive from some anonymous person who obviously doesn’t know
jack about Jack I would ask everyone to look at Jack’s OWN INITIATIVE:

III. The legislature is authorized upon thorough investigation, to enact legislation using reasonable standards to:

1. License concessionary establishments to distribute cannabis hemp euphoric products in a manner analogous to California’s wine industry model. Sufficient community outlets shall be licensed to provide reasonable commercial access to persons of legal age, so as to discourage and prevent the misuse of, and illicit traffic in, such products. Any license or permit fee required by the State for commercial production, distribution or use shall not exceed $1,000.00.

2. Place an excise tax on commercial sale of cannabis hemp euphoric products, analogous to California’s wine industry model, so long as no excise tax or combination of excise taxes shall exceed $10.00 per ounce.

As someone who not only filed the above verbiage with Jack in 1995, but also as someone who sat with him night after night watching him fuss over every little word and passage in that initiative I can tell you that Jack KNEW EXACTLY what he was writing when he wrote to: “Place an excise tax on commercial sale of cannabis hemp euphoric products, analogous to California’s wine industry model.”

Jack Herer did indeed support taxing Cannabis, as he WROTE IT INTO HIS OWN INITIATIVE!

And I am also working on a letter that will be released by his children clearly stating that Jack would support Prop 19 and that Jack WOULD NEVER walk into a voting booth and vote anything but YES to LEGALIZE CANNABIS!

Wake UP PEOPLE: if you don’t like Richard’s efforts then get off your derriere and go do better! This is hardly the last step in winning back our freedom and releasing all the pot prisoners.

If you people arguing against this initiative actually prevail in causing this to lose on the November ballot then this WHOLE MOVEMENT LOSES and people will be sitting in jails much longer the world over because of your stupidity.

So Sincerely,
Todd McCormick

P.S. I would also like to ask everyone on this list to take a moment and fill in my survey as I work to build a better THC EXPO/SHOW that will be touring to at least 5 states in the next 12 months. I really would treasure the opinions from the people on this list on what can be done better.


So there you have it. Can we put the “What Would Jack Do” conversation to bed and those who oppose the Prop 19 effort can go back to speaking for Dennis instead of Jack and Dennis. That would be great….

Why I support Prop. 19 and you should too…

There is a lot of talk going on about the upcoming Tax and Regulate vote in November that could legalize cannabis for adults over 21 in the State of California. People are questioning whether or not they should support this initiative for any number of reasons. Is one ounce enough? Will this put me out of business? Do the laws that regulate cannabis like alcohol increase current penalties? Is this real legalization? The critics range from uneasy farmers of cannabis to old school activists that claim to advocate legalization, but only if it is on their terms. There are dispensary operators that wonder what will happen to their organizations if it passes, and patients wondering if this vote will water down their medical need. There seems to be an awful lot of confusion regarding what is at stake, so let me make it clear…what is at stake is the beginning of the end of the war on cannabis. What is at stake is freedom. What is at stake is morality and justice. What is at stake is the future.

The first and most important reason I am asking you to support Tax and Regulate 2010 is because it is the right thing to do. Is the initiative perfect? No. Is it a hell of a lot better than the status quo? Absolutely.

The biggest upside is that this vote breaks the back of drug warriors who have for decades made a living of demonizing cannabis and jailing cannabis users. The world will be put on notice that the people of California no longer want to see their neighbors and loved ones made into criminals for the safe and responsible use of cannabis. That is huge. More than anything, sending a clear message that reason has trumped rhetoric will create a crack in the wall of prohibition that will continue to splinter and eventually lead to total cannabis freedom.

That is what we are fighting for, right? We want to be left alone in our choice to burn a joint or eat a cannabis brownie without looking over our shoulder and being made to feel like a second-class citizen. We want to be treated equally in our choice to alter our mental state with cannabis, like so many wine aficionados and beer lovers do everyday, without being scared to death of going to jail. We want to be able to have an ounce of marijuana in our car and not panic every time a cop pulls behind us in traffic. In fact, this completely nullifies a cops “probable cause” for smelling cannabis in your car. You can look right at them and say, “Why yes officer, that is my cannabis you smell.” As long as you are not under the influence there should be no issue. You can set it next to you on the seat if you want to.

This is the kind of freedom I want, and the Tax and Regulate Initiative gives me that. Peace of mind is invaluable to me. I hate being scared of cops over cannabis. The initiative normalizes the use of cannabis, which for too long has created unnecessary obstacles and hardships in people’s lives.

This initiative preserves the existing medical marijuana laws and is a humongous improvement over the current criminal laws that govern cannabis. It enables the legislature to improve upon the law but removes their power to limit it any further. It empowers municipalities to set up legitimate access points for cannabis and makes it legal for me to grow a 5×5 garden without fear of prosecution. And as a patient, I can continue to grow more if my doctor has approved it. Awesome. It lets me share cannabis with a neighbor without it being a crime and enables me to have an affirmative defense for possessing more than the ounce limit. That changes my world for the better in so many ways.

Tax and Regulate gives a person the right to possess and use cannabis. That in its self should be reason enough to get your vote; but let’s look at some of the arguments being used by people in the movement to belittle the initiative in favor of the status quo.

Some say the ounce limit is too restrictive and are upset that it is legal to buy unlimited quantities of booze and this law limits cannabis to an ounce. Unfortunately after decades of misinformation and lies about cannabis there is a need to ease voters minds about cannabis. Limiting the quantity is a concession that was made with the calculated hope of getting the thing to pass.  Obviously I would like to see less limitation, but in life we often must compromise idealism for the greater good. There are simply not enough cannabis users in the State of California to pass this on our own. We need the support of hundreds of thousands of people who do not use cannabis. Many non-cannabis users are not going to vote for an initiative that creates a virtual free for all. By ensuring the voter that there are reasonable and responsible limits in place we may win the hearts and minds of enough of them to get it passed.

Others complain that the initiative’s 21-year-old age limit is unfair to those 18-20. The big red herring argument is that by making the penalty for furnishing cannabis to a person under 21 the same as alcohol, that this “increases” or “adds” new punishments to cannabis use.  If we really want this initiative to pass (and I do), it is necessary to present the initiative in a light that is understandable to the society we live in. The most common adult use drug on the market is by far alcohol, so naturally the authors of this initiative did their best to model the structure to relate to that industry. In doing that, there are certain realities created that may seem less than reasonable to the average cannabis user who understands the safety of cannabis.

It amazes me that this distraction of an argument would influence a person to continue to make criminals out of the vast majority of cannabis users who ARE 21 and over. Furthermore, it is insulting to dismiss the entire initiative over a statute that is the same as people buying booze for a kid in a parking lot. I guarantee you that our prisons are not filled with people caught fishing for beer. I do know that prisons are filled with people who have used, grown, sold, given or violated their probation by using cannabis.  Know there are parents who have lost custody of their children for their use of cannabis. Is it really worth tearing down the opportunities the initiative affords so that we can give a joint to a 19-year-old? These kids get booze just fine if they want it. The same will go for cannabis. Every day parents let their adult but not 21 kids have a glass of wine in the safety of their own home. Does the ATF kick their doors in and put them in prison or take away their kids? No. So this unfortunate argument is just weak and lacks substance.

The fake outrage over these “added penalties” can only be attributed to nitpicking. Would it be great if the law were written for 18 and over? Sure. I firmly believe that if you can join the army and fly to other countries to kill people that you should be able to smoke a joint or have a beer at the and of your day. Unfortunately, my extremely liberal views are not shared by the vast majority of people and I am willing to concede an increased age limit and an agreement of penalties that parallel alcohol to get the votes needed to actually pass it. My experience in talking to people that do not use cannabis is that people are willing to support the initiative because of its limitations and relation to the legal status of alcohol.

Still others argue that legalization will devalue their crop and essentially put them out of business. I have two words for these people….”YOU SUCK.” I mean, really? Really? You would continue to make criminals out of hundreds of thousands of people to make an extra buck? That is simply the worst logic ever expressed and frankly, it is offensive. What you will find is an increased competition, as outlaws will not be in total control of the production. This type of real market competition scares some. That is understandable, but it is unfathomable to consider not legalizing cannabis because you suck at business and marketing. Look at the wine industry. There are a number of cheap, average, mass-produced wines on the market, but there are also $500 bottles on the market. Why? Do you think the $500 bottle of wine is made with magic grapes? No. It is made with a higher quality, and the producers have done a great job of marketing their product. They have created a desire for their limited high-end product line. Cannabis will be no different. People who create great products will continue to see a demand for their services. Those who cut corners and lack the ability to create desirable products will fail; whereas now they get by because prohibition has created a demand even for mediocre cannabis.

Some have estimated that the price of cannabis would be cut in half. Well grow twice as much then. Lobby your local officials to allow for economic viability through cannabis production. But voting against legalization to protect your own financial interest is despicable. How could you sleep at night if the initiative fails and people continue to lose their jobs, kids, and freedoms so that you could make more money without having to truly compete in a legitimate market? Your income level is an irrelevant conclusion in a much larger argument.

Talented and hard-working people will thrive in a legitimized industry. Those who have dedicated their lives to growing and producing cannabis will be the leaders of this industry. Those who simply use cannabis as a means to an end and would put their pocketbook over reason will have a special place in hell I am sure.

I also believe that the initiative will create a substantial tourism industry that people can tap into. California will always produce the finest cannabis and be the birthplace of the movement in America.  The millions of people who enjoy cannabis around the world will want to come to California to be immersed in the culture of it all. There will be “Bud and Breakfasts” that open to accommodate cannabis enthusiasts and farm tours that will attract folks to spend money. As it is embraced by the culture over time, could we see “Cannaland,” the world’s first cannabis-themed amusement park? Maybe we will; but not if we do not get the vote out.

The time is now and the opportunity has never been greater. It is our responsibility to do our part to get this passed and take a huge step towards ending the war on cannabis. Talk to the people in your lives. Encourage the person at work or in line at the grocery store to vote to legalize cannabis because it is the morally right thing to do. Tell the hesitant soccer mom you know that it is not a matter of whether or not her baby will have access to cannabis- they will. The choice is whether her baby should go to jail for their decision to use cannabis. Talk to your religious relative and explain that cannabis is a plant and that he true sin is to continue to lock a person up for using God’s natural wonder plant. This campaign is all of ours. We will sink or swim in the process.

Already the initiative has accomplished more than could have been expected even a couple of years ago. It has created a national dialogue that continues to make people question prohibition. The opposition will come out in force as the election grows near. It is all of our responsibilities to ensure that we do not allow those forces to get away with continuing the failed policy of making criminals out of cannabis users.

Do what is right. Join me in supporting the Tax and Regulate initiative and make your voice heard on November 2, 2010. United we stand and divided we fall. Put the petty differences aside and let the egos rest. Make the simple choice; if you want to end prohibition, as we know it, vote yes. If you want to continue to allow for tyranny and chaos to rule, vote no. The choice is yours.