Maybe Marijuana Can't Save Democrats

More

Recently, I wrote about the idea emerging among some Democrats that marijuana ballot initiatives help Democratic candidates by attracting young voters who show up to support legalization and vote Democrat while they're there. The logic is similar to what Karl Rove had in mind when he encouraged anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives in the 2004 race, as a way of juicing support among evangelicals for George W. Bush. (Rove succeeded on the latter, but is losing on the former.)

I mentioned in the original post that political scientists who have studied the gay marriage initiatives disagree over whether or not they actually helped Bush. This came as news to me--I'd assumed, as I think most people did, that they'd worked flawlessly (from Rove's point of view). The reason they were not an unalloyed good for Republicans is that the initiatives, in addition to drawing out opponents of gay marriage, also motivated supporters to show up and vote against them--and these people also generally opposed Bush. (See, for example, here.) So there was an offsetting effect.

This will not come as welcome news to the many pot supporters who were excited about my post. But it's obviously relevant to the discussion. If you accept the argument of those academics who are skeptical about the effectiveness of Rove's ploy--and their point makes intuitive sense to me--then you'd also have to believe that the effect of marijuana ballot initiatives will be more circumscribed than supporters would like to believe.

From what I've read of the literature, there does seem to be some fairly compelling evidence that the anti-gay marriage initiatives had an effect in areas with heavy concentrations of Protestant evangelicals. That would imply that the effect of marijuana initiatives on Democratic candidates would be strongest in areas with heavy concentrations of pot supporters--i.e., blue states like California, but probably not red states. Sorry to be a buzz kill.

h/t to Brendan Nyhan at the University of Michigan

Jump to comments
Presented by

Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Death of Film: After Hollywood Goes Digital, What Happens to Movies?

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In