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More Californians Voted for Marijuana than for Republican Candidates

November 18, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Californians Voted for Marijuana than for Republican Candidates
On November 2, California voters, by a 54%-46% margin, defeated a ballot measure that would have legalized the use of marijuana for those over the age of 21. The main storyline coming out of the overall results of this election was that, despite whatever may be happening in the rest of the United States, in California Democrats won in a landslide. However, this story obscures another, more curious result of the 2010 election: in California, marijuana is more popular than the Republican Party.
According to the most recent result totals, 4,252,931 Californians voted to legalize marijuana. By contrast, the Republican candidate for governor, Meg Whitman, earned only 3,835,400 votes, and the party’s senatorial candidate, Carly Fiorina gained 3,917,149. The most successful statewide Republican, attorney general candidate Steve Cooley, managed just 4,069,699 votes. His race, against Democrat Kamala Harris, is still undecided, with Harris leading by 14,043 votes. Cooley and Harris may be political rivals, but they co-authored the ballot arguments against legalization of marijuana.
Anti-marijuana activists hailed the defeat of the pro-marijuana proposition by claiming that it marked the death knell of the movement to legalize marijuana, and that support for legalization has peaked. This view seems to be more speculative than evidence-based.
However, if this vote result was a bad sign for marijuana advocates, what are we to assume about the future of the Republican Party in California? Meg Whitman spent $141.5 million of her own money on her campaign. Add in another $20 million that came from outside donors and she ended up spending more than six times as much money as Democratic candidate Jerry Brown. Yet Whitman lost by more than 12%. Fiorina lost to Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer by 9.6%. Down the ballot, except for the Cooley-Harris nail-biter, it only got worse for the Republicans, even losing the basically generic race for state treasurer by 20%.
At least marijuana legalization supporters have demographics on their side. A majority of voters under the age of 30 voted for legalization. In the 2008 election, this age group made up 20% of the electorate. In 2010, young voters were only 11%. California Republicans have no such demographic bright side to their losses. The largest-growing voting groups in California are Latinos and Asians, both of whom have grown increasingly hostile to the Republican Party.
It may come as a shock to people outside of California, but Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has the lowest approval rating of any governor in the United States—15%.
Of course, the Republican Party is not going to fade away in California, but if you’re planning to invest in the future, you might want to put your money on marijuana rather than the GOP.
-David Wallechinsky
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