Mass. voters back legalized marijuana, reject charter expansion in new poll
BOSTON >> Eight weeks from election day, Massachusetts voters favor proposals to legalize marijuana and add protections for farm animals and are leaning against a proposed expansion of charter schools and a plan clearing the path for a second slots parlor, according to a survey out Tuesday from the MassINC Polling Group.
The poll released through WBUR shows the highest margin goes to Question 3, where 66 percent of voters surveyed want requirements for animal products grown and sold in Massachusetts prescribing adequate room for egg-laying hens, veal calves and pigs. Only 25 percent opposed that measure.
The divide is closer on Question 4 legalizing marijuana and Question 2, which would allow for 12 new charter schools annually regardless of existing statutory caps. Neither side in those questions cracked the 50 percent mark with the charter question failing 41-48 and the marijuana question favored by 50 percent and opposed by 45 percent. The margin of error in the poll is 4.4 percent.
Question 1, which would allow the Gaming Commission to grant an additional slots parlor license next to a horse-racing track, such as Suffolk Downs — which lost out on a bid for a casino license to Wynn Everett — was favored by 37 percent and opposed by 52 percent.
The poll conducted after Labor Day of 506 likely voters, showed an age divide, most distinct on the marijuana question, with younger voters more likely to support the ballot referendums across the board.
The marijuana question is favored 65-35 among 18- to 29-year-olds. Among people ages 60 and older, 39 percent supported it and 56 percent opposed it.
Unlike prior years where U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races competed for voters' attention, the ballot contests this November will be the only statewide campaigns aside from the presidential election.
Ballot question campaigns are not limited by caps on donations or prohibitions on corporate giving that apply to political candidates in Massachusetts, and interested industries often contribute heavily to their preferred side.
The most recent fundraising reports show proponents of the charter school question have spent the most so far, at $7 million, almost twice as much as opponents of Question 2. According to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, no money has yet mobilized in opposition to the slots parlor question or to Question 3, mandating space for farm animals.
The MassINC poll also shows 43 percent of respondents believe marijuana use makes people more likely to try other drugs. Fifteen percent of those who support Question 4 agree with that statement.
Voters appear more primed to buy a key argument of Question 4 proponents, that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis. Only 4 percent of voters rated marijuana the most harmful of a group of substances, less than the 13 percent who identified sugar as most harmful, while 19 percent believe alcohol is the most harmful. At 42 percent, a plurality of respondents deemed tobacco the most harmful of the group of four substances. Only 7 percent of those who oppose marijuana legalization determined the drug was more harmful than sugar, tobacco or alcohol, according to the poll.
The poll found more people agree — 46-38 — with the argument that charter schools drain money from other public schools.
Save Our Public Schools, the Question 2 opponents, said in a statement, "This poll confirms what we are hearing from voters all across the state: They believe that if some of our public schools are falling short we should fix them, not take hundreds of millions of dollars away from them every year and give it to privately run charters that are not even accountable to the local taxpayers who have to pay for them."
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