Vote Yes on 19 poster from 1972

Yes on 19 Marijuana Legalization Campaign Poster. (Bolerium Books/LA Weekly)

Proposition 19, the newly numbered California initiative to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis, would lose by a very close margin if the election was held today, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll:

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, also found that 48 percent of voters would support legalizing marijuana, compared to 50 percent opposed.

While voters who oppose Prop 19 slightly outnumber those who support it , the two-point difference is well within the poll’s margin of error, so the state is effectively evenly split on the issue. The numbers mirror the findings of a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PDF) taken back in May. It gave the pro-marijuana legalization side a slight edge, 49-48, also within the poll’s margin of error.

An interesting thing to note in both of these polls is how incredibly few undecideds there are. It seems almost all Californians have already taken at least a tentative initial position on the issue. Previous experience will tell you that persuading people to change their minds one way or the other is often a fairly difficult endeavor.

Prop 19 supporters’ best hope might be to find a way to increase turnout among young people (under-25 voters overwhelmingly favor legalizing marijuana, but tend to vote in very low numbers in midterm elections). If the issue remains this closely divided all the way through to November, Prop 19’s fate could easily rest on whether or not the issue gets young voters politically engaged in higher-than-usual numbers.