In the wonkosphere (that curious amalgam of bloggers, political junkies, math nerds, and activists) there is a young man named Nate Silver who runs a website called FiveThirtyEight (the number of Electoral Votes). He’s considered a guru of poll analysis and his predictions on electoral races are very accurate. We’ver reported before on Silver’s work when he analyzed the history of marijuana legalization polling and predicted a 60% support level by 2022.
This time he’s analyzed the polls on California’s Prop 19 – the initiative to LEGALIZE MARIJUANA (I have to keep shouting that to the pot smokers threatening to vote no) – and found quite an interesting phenomenon. When a machine asks you about marijuana on the phone, you’re more likely to be honest than when a human asks you. Especially if you’re more likely to be targeted by cops for harassment over marijuana.
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 thatrates 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.)
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.
It’s a point I’ve made when I show the graphs of American use of cannabis. Remember, these are people who are willing to admit to breaking state and federal laws when asked by an anonymous stranger on the telephone who’s representing the federal government. So adjust upward.