Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Poll: Californians support legalizing marijuana; many are leery of Obamacare

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More Californians than ever say smoking marijuana recreationally should be legal, according to a new poll.

Support for legalizing marijuana use is growing, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California. For the first time, a majority of all Golden State residents (52%) – not just likely voters – say people should be free to ingest pot recreationally. Among likely voters, 60 percent favor full legalization.

“Californians now have more experience with medical marijuana being available,” said Mark Baldassare, president of the PPIC, in explaining why people may be more supportive of treating marijuana like alcohol.

Voters rejected a 2010 ballot measure that would have legalized pot. Pro-marijuana activists have said they plan to place another measure on the ballot in 2016.

Amid a fierce debate in Washington D.C. over the Affordable Care Act, the poll found only a slender majority of people (53%) in overwhelmingly Democratic California support the law – also known as Obamacare. Only a quarter of those surveyed believed they would be better off under the law.

Surprisingly, among people without health insurance, just 56 percent said they support the law, which is designed to provide healthcare to more people.

“The message just hasn’t gotten out there,” said Baldassare. “Many people find healthcare reform complicated.”

The survey also found half of Californians support the plan approved by Governor Brown to reduce prison overcrowding. Under the plan, the Department of Corrections would ship about 6,000 inmates to out-of-state facilities, unless federal judges postpone their order to reduce the prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates by the end of the year.

Those judges on Monday postponed their order by just one month. They instead ordered Brown to delay the move and instead continue negotiations with inmates’ lawyers on a more “durable solution” to prison overcrowding.

The PPIC poll found most Californians are very concerned (47%) or somewhat concerned (31%) about the early release of prisoners.

Californians are also growing increasingly concerned about the shift of state prison inmates to local county jails. The polls found just 40 percent are confident or somewhat confident that local governments can handle the responsibility.

The survey found more than half of Californians (53%) believe the state’s water supply will be inadequate within a decade. Asked about a proposed $6.5 billion bond measure to fund water projects, 55 percent of residents and 50 percent of likely voters would vote yes.

People are “divided and ambivalent about what to do,” said Baldassare.  “The state’s leadership has yet to provide a clear vision for people about what water policy in California ought to be.”

When it comes to fracking, 53 percent of Californians oppose the process of using a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals to extract oil from the ground. When asked specifically about two components of new state legislation on the issue – requiring oil companies to obtain permits and requiring them to disclose information on chemicals – 80 percent of residents were in favor.

Two other results from the poll: Half of adults and half of likely voters approve of Governor Brown’s job performance, similar to the previous six PPIC surveys. Brown is up for re-election in 2014.

President Obama’s approval rating among adults is 55 percent – the first time its been below 60 percent in California since July 2012. 

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