By Annie Linskey
March 25 (Bloomberg) -- A majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana and would be motivated to vote if a measure to do so is on the ballot, according to a George Washington University Battleground poll released today.
The survey of 1,000 likely voters found 73 percent support allowing marijuana for legal medical purposes, 53 percent favor decriminalization and 68 percent are “more likely” to go to their polling place to weigh in on a ballot.
“Marijuana legalization and marijuana decriminalization is at a tipping point” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners and one of the two pollsters who conducted the survey. Support crosses party lines, though younger and single voters -- who tend to vote for Democrats -- are more motivated by those issues, she said.
Ballot measures on legalizing pot are set for Alaska’s August primary and probably this November in Oregon, according to Allen St. Pierre, the executive director Norml, a Washington-based nonprofit pushing for more access to the drug. Florida will see a decriminalization effort, he said.
The marijuana question was part of a wide-ranging poll that tested President Barack Obama’s approval rating, potential 2016 presidential candidates and American’s views on the billionaire Koch brothers. The survey, conducted March 16-20, was released today at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
While the poll showed Americans are evenly split between supporting Democrats and Republicans on a generic ballot, Republicans hold an advantage because they are more motivated to vote: 64 percent said they are “extremely likely” to go to the polls compared with 57 percent of Democrats.
The president’s job-approval rating is 44 percent in the survey -- up 3 points from when the question was last asked in mid-January. Obama’s disapproval is 53 percent, down a point from when the question was last asked.
“This data gives an edge to Republicans,” said Ed Goeas, chief executive officer of the Tarrance Group, a public affairs firm based in Alexandria, Virginia, who also worked on the survey.
“Obama’s name will not be on the ballot but Obama’s polices will be,” he said. And “you don’t have the operation of the presidential race there turning out votes on that side.”
Eighty-two percent disapprove of how Congress is doing its job, a slight improvement from October when 87 percent said they had an unfavorable view of the legislative branch.
Americans have a better opinion of their own member of Congress -- with only 42 percent disapproving.
Most said they’ve never heard of the fifth- and sixth- richest men in the world, brothers David and Charles Koch, worth a combined $100 billion. Their political operation has aired more television ads early in the 2014 congressional midterm election campaign than any other group.
Among those who have heard of the billionaire brothers, just 25 percent hold an unfavorable view, according to the poll. Twelve percent voiced a favorable opinion. Democrats are seeking to make an issue in the midterms of the Kochs’ political activity, including the airing of ads attacking supporters of Obama’s new health-care law.
The survey found a harsher view of “Wall Street,” with 39 percent viewing it negatively compared with 29 percent who have a favorable impression.
Looking toward the 2016 presidential election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has the highest approval rating of potential candidates at 54 percent.
She’s followed by Vice President Joe Biden with a 44 percent favorability rating; Kentucky Senator Rand Paul at 38 percent; former Florida Governor Jeb Bush with 36 percent, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie with 34 percent.