As California Democrats begin to pull ahead in competitive statwide races, some are asking whether the Proposition 19, a ballot initiative to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, is helping the party's cause in the state.
Indeed, a September survey from Public Policy Polling found "a much higher level of interest in this this election from voters under 45 in California than in most places and those folks are highly favorable toward Proposition 19, planning to vote for it by a 54/34 margin."
Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that some Democratic strategists are looking ahead to see whether similar ballot initiatives in key battleground states like Colorado and Nevada could boost turnout among young progressive voters in 2012.
Most analysts have identified an "enthusiasm gap" between likely Republican and Democratic voters as a key advantage for the GOP in 2010. In a recent McClatchy poll, 56 percent of conservatives in Colorado are very enthusiastic about voting, while 36 percent of liberals and 35 percent of moderates say they're very enthusiastic.
The Wall Street Journal reports that marijuana initiatives could help close that gap if it still exists in 2012:
Democratic strategists liken the marijuana effort to the 2004 ballot drives to ban gay marriage in Ohio and 10 other states. Whether those measures helped then-President George W. Bush win that year remains a point of debate, as turnout was high even in states without the issue on the ballot. But many conservatives say the measure drove thousands to the polls in Ohio, the election's central battleground, where Mr. Bush won by just two percentage points, or about 118,000 votes.
Now, some Democratic strategists say marijuana legalization could do the same for their party.
Indeed, a 2009 poll showed that, in Colorado, "surge voters" who accounted for the high turnout in 2008, single women under 40, and Hispanics would all be more likely to vote if there were a legalization initiative on the ballot.
A Rasmussen poll from May, 2010 also showed that the idea of legalizing marijuana was more popular in Colorado than any of the major candidates for statewide office.
Colorado, like California, has already legalized marijuana for medicinal use. Studies have shown marijuana use in the state to be more prevalent than almost any other state in the country.
Even so, a marijuana legalization initiative in 2006 lost 61-38.
The Denver Daily News reported Wednesday that at least two groups, Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) and the Cannabis Therapy Institute (CTI), have expressed serious interest in gathering signatures to put a legalization initiative of the 2012 ballot. Neither group is affiliated with the Democratic Party.