Sunday, November 11, 2012

Amendment 64 Coalition

Colorado made political waves throughout the nation on election day by passing Amendment 64 to decriminalize marijuana. State officials are now in discussions with the Department of Justice about how, or whether, the amendment may move forward given that marijuana remains criminalized at the federal level.

Interestingly, the passage of Amendment 64 came over the objections of both Democratic and Republican officials in Colorado. It was opposed by Governor John Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock of Denver (both Democrats) as well as by chairman of the state Republican party Ryan Call. In this post, I examine the nature of the voter coalition that supported the amendment using data from the Colorado Voter Poll conducted by the University of Denver. The poll was conducted nearly a month before the election, but I do not have a major reason to believe that the basic nature of the coalition of voters supporting the measure changed in that time.  

As a start, I used a statistical procedure known as regression analysis to identify the relationship of a range of standard demographic variables to support for Amendment 64 among Colorado likely voters. I found that five variables had a statistically significant relationship: age, party identification, income, attendance at religious services and self-identification as a libertarian.    

Bottom line: Amendment 64 passed with the support of a coalition of voters who are young, secular and relatively low-income, and who are likely to identify as Democrats, independents or libertarians. I'll briefly review the results for each category. 

In each of the graphs below, I show the total level of support for Amendment 64 as it stood in early October. We found that 44 percent of voters were opposed and 56 percent were in support if undecided voters are excluded. This is very close to the final statewide vote of 54.8 percent in favor of the amendment. Each graph below shows how voters are distributed within each coalition by age and other variables.

Data from University of Denver poll of likely Colorado voters.

First, support for the measure was built on a foundation of younger voters, with 76 percent of those under the age of 35 supporting the measure compared to 49 percent of those 55 and older. Of the coalition of voters who supported the measure, 40 percent were under the age of 35.

Data from University of Denver poll of likely Colorado voters.

From the standpoint of party identification, the amendment's support drew primarily from Democrats and unaffiliated voters with a smaller amount of Republicans. Seventy-four percent of independents, 69 percent of Democrats and 32 percent of Republicans supported the measure according to our poll (undecideds again excluded). Of those who supported the measure, 22 percent were Republican, 49 percent were Democrats and 29 percent were unaffiliated.

Data from University of Denver poll of likely Colorado voters.

While those earning over $50,000 a year were nearly evenly split in their support for Amendment 64, voters earning less than $50,000 a year leaned toward the amendment with 65 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.  

Data from University of Denver poll of likely Colorado voters.

The frequency with which people attend religious services is a strong predictor of social conservatism. Consistent with that finding, those who attend services frequently were likely to oppose the amendment while those who attend less frequently or never were more likely to support it. Over 60 percent of those who attend services once a week or more opposed the measure, while 74 percent of those who never attend services supported it. 

Finally, 18 percent of our respondents described themselves as being libertarians. These voters are particularly concentrated among independents. Twenty-seven percent of independent voters are self-identified libertarians, compared to 17 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats. Libertarians overwhelmingly supported the measure at a level of 73 percent, and they made up 24 percent of the coalition supporting the measure.  

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