Monday Jolt: State Initiatives

By Afternoon Jolt September 17, 2012

Today's loser: Statewide initiatives. 

A new Elway Poll contradicts a more optimistic recent SurveyUSA poll that showed all the statewide initiatives and referenda---including R-74 (marriage equality),

I-502 (pot legalization), I-1185 (two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise taxes), and I-1240 (charter schools)---passing overwhelmingly. The Elway poll, in contrast, shows three of the four statewide ballot measures (gay marriage, pot, and the two-thirds rule) "teetering on the edge of victory," with just 50 to 51 percent support. The fourth, charter schools, is leading but has the support of just 47 percent of likely voters.

Those numbers are grim news for initiative supporters. According to Elway, since 1992, just eight of 24 measures that polled below 60 percent during the summer before an election ended up winning. None of the four major ballot measures this year have ever polled above 60 percent.

One difference between the Elway Poll and SurveyUSA's poll is that Elway actually read the ballot language to poll respondents; in contrast, SurveyUSA simpoly asked what respondents thought of the ideas the initiatives would implement. So, for example, where Elway would ask the following question:

Referendum 74 concerns same-sex marriage. The ballot title reads as follows: The legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239 concerning marriage for same-sex couples, modified domestic-partnership law, and religious freedom, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill. This bill would allow same-sex couples to marry, preserve domestic partnerships only for seniors, and preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony. Should this bill be: Approved? Rejected?

... SurveyUSA would ask only, "A new law passed by the legislature would allow same-sex couples to marry in Washington state. Should this law be approved? Or rejected?"

In this case, it seems people support the idea of gay marriage, but get confused when presented with specific ballot language.

Read the full Elway resultshere.
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