Friday, October 25, 2013

Getting high on polls

There was general surprise and discussion from people about a recent Gallup poll that showed a record number of people believing that marijuana should be legal.  Everyone who is trying to advocate for drug reform, including myself, got excited for the numbers being released.  Now, we finally have the ammunition to start legalizing marijuana.

We should probably take a step back and look at other polls.  Gallup showed a gigantic increase in the numbers of those who support marijuana legalization.  Even same-sex marriage which has seen an upswing in recent years has not made the same type of increase.

Pew research also found that a majority of people want to legalize marijuana.  But their numbers are significantly lower than Gallup's.  At 52%, we're looking at what could be a seriously contested issue, if it was a nationwide ballot initiative to legalize marijuana.  Even then, we still have to remember that while polls strive to be as accurate as possible, once you get to the nationwide level in creating a sample, you're going to have problems.  It is important, still, to look at more polls.

The one that is recommended, is the General Social Survey, which has a much higher response rate at 70% compared to a normal poll which is about 10%.  The 2012 General Social Survey found that the percentage of people wanting marijuana to be legalized fell from 44% in 2010 to 43% in 2012.

With all polls, I tend to be an aggregator as opposed to one believes that each poll is an accurate representation of the sample each time.  By aggregating polls, you can begin to see trends.  From these trends, you can extrapolate, build a linear regression model to forecast the data, or what have you.  The important part is to begin looking at trends.  While there may not be a clear majority who want marijuana legalization, right now, it is pretty clear that the general population is starting to support the legalization of marijuana.  Legalization of marijuana is following much the same path to everyone's hearts as same-sex marriage.  We should expect to see a clear majority support legalization in the coming years.    

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