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July 27, 2010

Is polling on Proposition 19, California's pot legalization initiative, subject to a "Broadus Effect"?

A helpful reader pointed me to this fascinating post by Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight under the heading "The Broadus Effect? Social Desirability Bias and California Proposition 19."  Here are excerpts:

The three automated surveys all have Prop 19 passing by a double-digit margin. The human-operator polls, meanwhile, each show it trailing narrowly.... Although some of these polls contain incomplete demographic information, the split appears to be driven more by minority voters than by whites....

There are a couple of reasons why these discrepancies might have arisen. One might be that the automated surveys are having difficulty getting a representative sample of minorities. Automated surveys generally have lower response rates, and that impact may be most felt among minorities, who are usually harder to get on the phone.

Nevertheless, this is a relatively highly-rated group of automated surveys, particularly SurveyUSA and PPP, which don't take as many of the shortcuts that some of their competitors do. And so it raises another possibility:

What if voters are more likely to admit their tolerance for marijuana to an automated script, which may create the feeling of greater anonymity? Marijuana usage remains fairly stigmatized in polite society in America, enough so that even liberal politicians like Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Brown and Barack Obama have refused to state their support for legalizing the drug. But as most Americans between ages 20 and 55 have smoked marijuana, they may not consider it such a big deal in the privacy of their homes -- or the privacy of the ballot booth.... [I]t's possible that we're seeing some sort of Bradley effect in reverse, which I've reluctantly dubbed the "Broadus Effect" after the given name of the rapper Snoop Dogg, himself a frequent consumer of cannabinoid-rich products.

The original Bradley Effect, named for former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, occurs when respondents in surveys are asked about socially desirable behaviors, such as being free from racial prejudice. Although the racial version of Bradley effect itself is probably a thing of the past, social desirability bias may manifest itself in other ways. Automated polls have sometimes shown relatively lower levels support for gay marriage initiatives, for instance, in states like Maine and California. Homophobia is fairly common, but has become socially undesirable; the purveyors of the automated polls have sometimes claimed that their respondents are free to be more honest when there's not another human being on the line. If the theory holds, automated polls might also provide a setting for voters to be more honest about their feelings on marijuana use, another behavior that is probably more widespread (and privately tolerated) than it is socially acceptable. If so, that would be good news for Prop 19.

July 27, 2010 at 01:17 PM | Permalink


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Learn more about the campaign to legalize, control, and tax cannabis in California at www.taxcannabis.org. And become a fan of the campaign on Facebook at www.facebook.com/taxcannabis. Thanks!

Posted by: TaxAndControl2010 | Jul 27, 2010 2:24:50 PM

"socially undesirable"

Most isms are folk statistics, 80% correct, 80% of the time. So if you hire black men to manage your retirement fund, and employ mostly Jews on your professional basketball team , you deserve the result.

"Socially undesirable" is really lawyer code for the imposition of punishment by judges, imposing their sick personal preferences on a reluctant public that knows better. Make a remark like the above at work in front of a black or a Jew, and the company will be sued, and they will have to fire you to protect themselves from ruinous, pretextual and unjustifiable litigation. Such remarks, however truthful and accurate, are socially undesirable. The unintended consequences are often hideous. Racial discrimination was ended at the point of a gun. The result, the destruction of the black family, a soaring rate of black unemployment, and an explosive increase in the rates of murder of black people. Thank the sicko lawyer on the federal bench. In the Fifties, blacks were a little behind whites in social measurements. In the Seventies they fell behind as if exiled to a Third World country, thanks to the judicial decision of the lawyer hierarchy.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 27, 2010 5:03:21 PM

Prop 19 has been touted as marijuana legalization and decriminalization. I think most California people can get behind that, the problem is that it simply is not true. It creates more crimes than it gets rid of. Now it is only an infraction to have less than an ounce. the only felony ( imprison-able offense) that it affects is growing in a 5x5 space which if you look at court records is an almost unheard of offense) people simply grow in larger spaces. one outdoor plant will out strip that space within a few months, so it is lip-service to legalized growing, really all prop 19 does is to give the cronies of the authors the right to dominate the market, while not stopping the drug war, actually PROP 19 GIVES MONEY TO LAW ENFORCEMENT TO ENFORCE DRUG LAWS SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN IN THE BILL - they will be giving the tax money to fight the marijuana drug war. it is thinly veiled prohibition. - read the bill and weep. The authors are obviously greedy dealers who want to seal up the market in their favor with no compassion for the victims of the drug war. Certainly the broadus effect is in effect and the writer's of this bill are trying to take advantage of that by getting those who would like to see it more socially acceptable to vote for it, secretly even though they say NO on the phone to the poller, but they have no idea what they are really voting for. This bill cheapens the marijuana's value, it should be kept medical and spiritual, not commercial, recreational and corporate.

Posted by: Amigadelagente | Oct 20, 2010 1:34:59 PM

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