Likely Nevada voters narrowly support the ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana use in the state, according to a poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Forty-seven percent of respondents support Question 2, which would allow adults 21 and older to legally buy and consume marijuana, according to the poll of 800 likely voters conducted in English and Spanish by Bendixen & Amandi International between Oct. 20 and 23. Forty-three percent oppose the measure, and 10 percent said they are still undecided or didn’t answer.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Fifty-four percent of Democrats support the measure compared to 34 percent who oppose it. For Republicans, 35 percent support it while 58 percent oppose legalizing the drug. Independents were in line with Democrats, with 51 percent saying they support it compared to 34 percent in opposition.
Opposition to Question 2 among Nevadans dropped 3 points compared to a previous Review-Journal poll conducted by the same firm between Sept. 27 and Sept. 29. The number of supporters remained the same between the two polls.
But marijuana supporters shouldn’t feel too secure about the results despite that drop, said Anthony Williams, special projects director at the polling firm.
“Being under 50 percent at this point, frankly would make me nervous if I were them,” he said.
And the support side didn’t gain any ground between the two polls. Instead, the undecided group grew from 7 percent in September to 10 percent this time around.
Williams said supporters of statute changes like Question 2 typically want a more substantial lead this late into an election because the gap usually closes on Election Day. Voters generally are less familiar with the ballot measures than with the top-of-the-ticket candidates, and become uneasy about changing a law when they don’t know much about it, he added.
“At this late day, it’s usually unlikely to convince a bunch of people to vote yes,” he said. “That 10 percent could easily vote no or skip the question entirely.”
Williams said because it is so close with just about two weeks until Election Day and because the issue is split between the parties, the outcome will be heavily dependent on voter turnout.
And if the turnout through the first four days of Nevada’s early voting is any indicator, supporters of the measure might be in luck. Thus far about 24,000 more Democrats have voted compared to Republicans.
The slight drop in the opposition also comes as opponents to the measure — funded mostly by Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson — unveiled their first television and digital ad blitz at the beginning of October. One ad suggests that legalizing marijuana would increase the access children have to the drug, and shows packaging used for some edible marijuana products look much like those of name-brand candies. A second ad claims that legalizing marijuana would make Nevada roads less safe due to more stoned drivers.
Supporters — financially backed by several marijuana businesses and stakeholders — say legalizing marijuana would lead to fewer people going to jail for minor drug charges and help eliminate the black market of pot sales.
The measure has significantly more support from the younger population, with 64 percent of respondents under 35 years old saying they want marijuana legalized. Just 42 percent of those 50-64 years of age said they would vote in favor of Question 2.
Bendixen & Amandi International, based in Miami, has done projects for clients including The Washington Post, Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.