Do ballot measures legalizing marijuana help democrats by increasing young voter turnout? The evidence is mixed. In 2010 California voters had the opportunity to legalize marijuana with Proposition 19, but exit polls showed no spike in voter turnout among young people. Prop 19 was rejected by voters 54% to 46%. However, the majority of young people did support the proposition, with 64% of voters age 18-24 and 52% of voters age2 4-29. It was a top issue for only one in ten voters, but was supported by 55% of Democrats and only 30% of Republicans. The Obama administration does not support the legalization of marijuana, but they do rely on support from young voters. In 2008 66% of voters under 30 voted for President Obama, but a recent poll shows that this support has decreased to 55% for 2012. Concerns have also been raised that young people, disillusioned by economic problems, will not turn out to vote in the same numbers that they did in 2008.
Next month voters in Colorado will be voting on the legalization of marijuana in Amendment 64, which aims to regulate marijuana like alcohol. Colorado is a swing state that President Obama won in 2008, and its nine electoral votes will be important in determining the outcome of the election. In October the University of Denver conducted a poll that found that the amendment is leading 50-40 among likely Colorado voters. But will young people come out to vote for Amendment 64 and to reelect President Obama? Floyd Ciruli, a political analyst in Denver explains that, “This might be a presidential race they are bored with and might not otherwise vote, but if marijuana gets them to the polls, it will favor Obama 2-to-1. The question is how many it will turn out. We don’t know. But all of the indications are that this will be a very close race, so a few thousand extra young voters for Obama could be significant.” Not only might young people be interested in legalizing marijuana due to personal preferences, but it could also help ease economic concerns. Colorado has the country’s only for-profit marijuana market, which has generated over $200 million in sales this year and tens of millions of dollars in taxes. For a further look at the booming industry, take a look at Newsweek’s new article about it. Also, check out Stephen Colbert’s coverage of the issue.