WBUR Poll: Public Opinion In Mass. Shifts Rapidly On Casinos, Marijuana

On Feb. 25, Mohegan Sun CEO Mitchell Etess celebrates the passage of a referendum allowing the casino operator to move forward with its plan at Suffolk Downs in Revere. A new WBUR poll finds declining support for casinos in the state. (Elise Amendola/AP)

On Feb. 25, Mohegan Sun CEO Mitchell Etess celebrates the passage of a referendum allowing the casino operator to move forward with its plan at Suffolk Downs in Revere. A new WBUR poll finds declining support for casinos in the state. (Elise Amendola/AP)

BOSTON — Public opinion on casinos and marijuana legalization is rapidly shifting in Massachusetts, according to a new WBUR poll.

The survey finds a once-large margin of support for casinos has all but evaporated in recent weeks, with 46 percent now in support of casinos and 43 percent opposed.

Meanwhile, support for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use is taking off. Forty-eight percent now back it, with 41 percent opposed.

“There’s much more volatility than I recall seeing in terms of some big social issues.”
– Steve Koczela,
MassINC Polling Group president

Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs), says the quick changes on casinos and marijuana are akin to the rapid shift in public opinion on gay marriage nationwide.

“There’s much more volatility than I recall seeing in terms of some big social issues,” he said.

The WBUR poll of 500 likely voters conducted between March 14 and 16 comes as advocates eye ballot measures on both issues.

Marijuana legalization advocates are pushing for a 2016 referendum. And gambling opponents are hoping to get a measure on the ballot this fall that would repeal the state’s casino law.

Attorney General Martha Coakley has ruled the casino measure unconstitutional. But activists are appealing that ruling in court. And Kathleen Conley Norbut, a former Monson selectman active in the statewide opposition to casinos, says shifting public opinion on the issue is encouraging.

“We’re doing this because we’re going to win,” she said. “We don’t have the deep pockets. What we have is a commitment to our communities, to our democracy and to see that the commonwealth of Massachusetts does the right thing.”

Casino Support Softens

Mohegan Sun, vying for a casino at the Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere, declined comment on the poll. Wynn Resorts, competing with Mohegan Sun for the sole Boston-area casino license, did not respond to requests for comment.

There has been plenty of local opposition to casinos. Voters in West Springfield, East Boston, Palmer and Milford shot down pricey gambling resort proposals last year. But statewide support for casinos held strong through 2013.

A November poll from the Western New England University Polling Institute showed voters statewide supported casinos by a 60-33 margin.

A January WBUR poll suggested a softening of that support. And the new WBUR survey shows a more dramatic shift; the three-point gap between supporters and opponents is within the poll’s margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Koczela said it’s difficult to say why public opinion is changing on casinos. But he pointed to a string of unflattering stories about the companies vying for one of three casino licenses — and the state regulators reviewing their bids.

“There’s been a lot of headlines about, sort of, the underside of this issue and nothing really positive to show for it yet,” he said. “No voter has gone to a concert or used a slot machine or sat down at a blackjack table yet.”

Whatever the impact of the headlines, follow-up interviews with poll respondents suggest that for some voters bedrock concerns about the impact on poor people — and on broader communities — are a factor.

“People who can’t afford it throw a lot of money in it,” said retired Acton caterer Joan Appleton. “I also think it lowers property values around. And I just don’t think they’re good.”

David Davignon, a civil engineer from Acushnet, acknowledged some concern about gambling addiction. But he said Massachusetts should not stand by while local dollars flow to the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut.

“All the money that, you know, two casinos make in Connecticut from Massachusetts residents — you know, if we could take some of that and put it into our own budget it would help,” he said.

Increased Support For Marijuana Legalization

Massachusetts voters decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot in 2008 and approved medical marijuana in 2012. But local and national advocates want Massachusetts to join Colorado and Washington state in legalizing recreational use of the drug.

As recently as November, a Western New England University Polling Institute survey suggested a tough climb: 52 percent of voters in the poll were opposed to legalization and 39 percent in favor.

But those numbers appear to have flipped in recent months. A Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll last month suggested a big shift on legalization, showing majority support for the first time. The WBUR poll confirms the trend.

Young voters support legalization by substantial margins. And because they tend to turn out in larger numbers in presidential years, advocates are aiming to put the measure on the ballot in two years.

They say the state will be a major focus in what they view as a pivotal year for marijuana law reform nationwide.

“Massachusetts is definitely in the top tier of reform states in 2016,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “We speculate strongly it will be joining California and Maine as two states where voters will be asked to cast votes to legalize marijuana. In all three states, polling is very supportive.”

(Pew Research Center chart, from April 2013)

(Pew Research Center chart, from April 2013)

Massachusetts law enforcement has already come out in opposition to the legalization push, arguing that it will send the wrong message to children.

The change in Massachusetts opinion on the issue is emblematic of a national shift. For the first time last year, a majority of Americans said they support legalizing marijuana.

The evolving views of Baby Boomers have been a critical factor in the emergence of a pro-pot majority.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, when they were young, they supported [legalization],” Koczela said of Boomers. “And then as they became parents and as they went through their careers, they opposed it. And now you’re seeing them come back actually to support it again.”

Poll respondent Janice Ekstrand, 65, of Fall River is among the Boomers who have changed their minds.

Ekstrand, a retired receptionist, said she never would have supported legalization a decade ago. But her views have changed as she’s watched marijuana use become more prevalent — and seen more people go to prison

“There are so many people in jail for small infractions of the law,” she said.

– Here are the poll’s topline results (via Scribd):

– Here are the poll’s crosstabs (via Scribd):

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  • Lawrence

    They are both bad ideas. There’ s reason they are both illegal in much of the world.
    Commonsense people.

    • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

      There is absolutely no doubt now that the majority of Americans want to completely legalize marijuana nationwide. Our numbers grow on a daily basis.

      The prohibitionist view on marijuana is the viewpoint of a minority of Americans.. It is based upon decades of lies and propaganda.

      Each and every tired old lie they have propagated has been thoroughly proven false by both science and society.

      Their tired old rhetoric no longer holds any validity. The majority of Americans have seen through the sham of marijuana prohibition in this day and age. The number of prohibitionists left shrinks on a daily basis.

      With their credibility shattered, and their not so hidden agendas visible to a much wiser public, what’s left for a marijuana prohibitionist to do?

      Maybe, just come to terms with the fact that Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think, and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

      Legalize Nationwide!…and Support All Marijuana Legalization Efforts!

      • Lawrence

        Brian, don’t you think that acknowledging the other side of the arguement is important.

        You do know that pot is a mind altering drug, right?
        And you do know that paranoia is highly associated with it’s use, right?
        And you do know that it can cause severe anxiety leading to hospitalization, right?
        And we do know that most people turn to drugs to escape from reality, indeed themselves.

        • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

          Yes we need to look seriously at both sides logic, facts, science and links to specific sources to back up any claims made.

          We want to see your sources for each of those claims you made.

          We also want logical, valid arguments, backed by sources as to why we need to continue to criminalize otherwise hard-working, tax-paying, adult citizens for wanting to consume a substance much less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco, niccotine, and caffiene within the privacy of their own homes?

    • Sandydog

      I don’t think you know the real reasons cannabis was made illegal, it wasn’t about safety, security or any other noble cause.

    • chris9465

      your severely lacking in the later…….the reasons spoken to in congress about why cannabis needs to be illegal………..

      makes darkies think their better than white men
      darkies step on the shadows of white men
      we will become pacifists unwilling to fight an invasion
      you will kill your brother
      makes darkies play that evil jazz/swing music
      white women will seek relations with darkies

      lawerence your lacking common sense and a will to self educate……

      typical Massachusetts liberal.

      • Lawrence

        Dear Pothead,

        Pot, the mind altering drug may be seemingly safe for you or others yet you do not know what if any long term damage results from it’s use.
        I have had patients with a severe case of anxiety requiring hospitalization due to just one use. I have seen paranoia, and a host of other psychiatric conditions directly from pot use.

        My neighbor caused a major highway accident due to pot use and lack of judgement on the road.

        It’s a mind altering drug. It tampers the central nervous system.
        Maybe finding the reason you need to escape into a drug induced reality, you won’t need to alter your mind in this way.

        • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

          Dear Lawrence,

          Name calling and stereotyping. It’s all that prohibitionists have left to offer society since virtually every piece of marijuana propaganda out there has been thoroughly debunked and completely dismissed by a smarter than prohibitionists thought public.

          Nobody can provide a real reason to continue the “War on Marijuana” because there isn’t one.

          You know, a little live and let live goes a real long way in ensuring a long, stress and anger free life. If you don’t like marijuana, then by all means don’t use it. Allow others to make their own choices about marijuana.

          The government has no business attempting to legislate morality by creating victim-less “crimes” because it simply doesn’t work and has already cost the taxpayers over a trillion dollars.

        • tennesseetuxedo59

          lie much?

          • Lawrence

            Lie? Sounds like you don’t believe me?
            Therefore, why not do yourself a favor and google: pot paranoia. It’s all there to those with an open mind. And these are personal experiences from people who had these reactions.


            Then google pot anxiety. You will read personal experiences.

            Maybe if you were more informed what I related would not be so “unbelievable”.

          • tennesseetuxedo59

            you got issues

          • Lawrence

            Only with closed minded people who refuse to confront the truth because it allows them to think of what they do is actually harm free and want to push their agenda on to others, making themselves feel validated in their behavior.

          • tennesseetuxedo59


          • Lawrence

            It’s just one example. Get over your emotional problems and not seek to escape using drugs. Hope you also read this part of that article from the above link. There are literally thousands on the web.

            I have several friends who have been heavy pot smokers. One attempted suicided (later diagnosed schizophrenic), the other gets severly paranoid when pot and any other drugs are combined.

            Echoing the sentements of the thread. If the negative outweighs the positive stay away from pot.

            On the topic of “conditioning” yourself to be able to enjoy pot again.
            I’d say it would be difficult but not impossible. But do you really want
            to do that? I mean, certainly thats a sign of some sort of drug dependancy. I’d stick to sobriety.

            On the topic of social anxiety. I’m a firm beliver in working through your problems. That is to say, i’d recommend against a “pill” that could elivate anxiety. Surely it’s much better for your well-being to slowly reintroduce yourself into social circumstances were you feel comfortable. Start off slowly, take your time, reassure yourself and
            gradually work through your social anxiety. It’s not going to be easy, but it will benefit you in countless other ways, much better than taking
            benzos or whatever.

          • tennesseetuxedo59

            pot trools ae easy to spot if you had done research you’d neverr say what you do .goodluck in trollland lolol

    • Lex

      casinos are not illegal in the most in the world

    • Youssef Ismail

      The criminalization of marijuana is one of the most backasswards policies this nation has ever seen. You literally couldn’t create a more absurd “law” if you tried.

    • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

      Yes, the reason the are illegal in much of the world is governments have lied. Plain and simple.

      Commonsense indeed, people.

    • tennesseetuxedo59


  • Brian Kelly B Bizzle

    The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

    Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

    The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

    Marijuana is much safer, and healthier to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

    Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

    The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

    Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

    Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

  • Mike Stedman

    I love this. They call pot a gateway drug. They say it hasn’t been studied enough.
    But they think gambling is fine and the crime that follows it is ok.
    Am I stoned???

  • nopartyaffiliation

    For over three decades Massachusetts residents have approved of casinos coming to this state by over a 2-1 margin in every scientific poll taken. Nimby and this single poll a aside, there is no momentum whatsoever from the anti-casino movement. It is and always has been a small group of statewide zealots aided by a complicit media to make the opposition seem stronger than it is. Referendums have passed favorably in Plainville, Raynham, Revere, Everett, Springfield, Taunton, Leominster, and Middleboro some years ago by overwhelming margins. There will be more positive referendums in the Southeast region in the coming months. In the unlikely event that the ballot question is ruled constitutional by the high court – which is a long shot at best – casino opponents will be crushed by over a 2-1 margin at the polls.

    There is ZERO momentum except for a complicit media that carries water daily for the anti-casino movement. The first license has been rewarded and construction will soon start on the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville. It will be in full operation in a little more than a year. The Repeal The Casino Deal crusade is the utmost of hypocrisy and laughable nonsense. It is a despicable display by reactionary regressives who would destroy current jobs in the racing industry, destroy hundreds of millions in potential revenues, and destroy the creation of thousands of construction and hospitality jobs that will come with these facilities. There could be no more testament to the utter willful ignorance and hypocrisy of anti-casino opponents than those facts.

    There are over 900 casino and gaming type facilities in 38 states at the present time. Hundreds of millions of entertainment dollars and revenues are being exported yearly out of Massachusetts to gaming facilities in CT and Rhode Island. Massachusetts residents who partake in the entertainment experience of casinos have been doing so for decades. Gambling like marijuana use is here and is not going anywhere. That some people choose to ignore those facts doesn’t change that reality. Casinos are highly regulated, don’t pollute the environment, and create jobs and added revenues for state and host communities. In case anyone is wondering about Repeal The Casino Deal’s supposed “grassroots David vs Goliath for the little people meme ” – The Ceo of Grand Circle Travel donated $70,000 along with other large donations from various other business interests throughout the state with a vested self-interest in stopping casinos from coming to Massachusetts. The anti-casino movement is littered with the “most noble” of capitalist hypocrites. The media has continued to ignore the realities of who is behind these anti-casino groups throughout the state that have spread vicious lies, smears, and the rankest of hysterical propaganda against the gaming entertainment industry.

    The Repeal The Casino Deal crusade is the rankest of capitalist hypocrisy and rational people utterly reject the motives of that organization. It is complete nonsense put forth by well to do Nimbys and religious zealots on both sides of the political spectrum and nothing more. There is no “momentum” and Repeal The Casino Deal is wasting their time and money on an effort that will never produce the results they hope for. It is highly questionable if the repeal effort even makes it to the ballot in a high court ruling due to the unconstitutional taking of property in implied contracts. In the unlikely event that is does, the effort will lose, as every scientific poll taken over the last three decades shows that the citizens of Massachusetts favor bringing casinos to this state by over a 2-1 margin. Even if the repeal effort was to hypothetically win on a ballot question – which would be akin to winning the lottery – it will quickly be overridden by the legislature as it should be. Anyone naive enough to believe otherwise is a wishful fool. The law was drawn up with the process of democratic voting in referendums in host communities that would site a casino. Some of those communities said yes and some said no. To override the wishes of that democratic process of local referendums at this point is rank hypocrisy and a farcical escapade in hypocrisy.
    Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in this process by all parties involved. Budgets have been planned around the casino laws revenues and countless other procedures have been drawn up with hundreds of community colleges and businesses across the state hinging on the casino law. That is not to mention the thousands of jobs that the casino law will produce across the state.

    The anti-casino movement needs to grow up, accept defeat, look in the mirror, and examine the stunning levels of their hypocrisy and zealotry. At this point, they along with a complicit media should be completely ashamed of themselves and their pathetically empty and irrelevant crusade against the gaming industry. There is not a study produced by Repeal The Casino Deal or the multitude of others across the state that isn’t cherry picked nonsense and pathetic propaganda. Earl Grinols, John Kindt, and their ilk are all paid shills of the anti-casino movement. End of story. Their completely biased and outdated trash is disseminated to every anti-casino group in the country and isn’t taken seriously by anybody but the zealots of the anti-casino brigade and gullible citizens and biased media who buy into the nonsense and propaganda. It has been proven to be nonsense by their own intellectual peers. There isn’t an ounce of factual information that isn’t based on skewed and biased numbers and their own hysterical outlook on the industry aided by a complicit media who refuse to study the facts before going to print with their hysteria and hit jobs on the gaming industry.

  • Kit Love

    pst…. support for marijuana was at those exact percentages last presidential election. the raise in it was actually years ago.

  • Shepherd Yerusalem

    Actually Marijuana is mentioned in the bible by name:

    1980, etymologists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem confirmed that cannabis is mentioned in the Bible by name, Kineboisin (Also spelled Kannabosm), in a list of measured ingredients for “an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compounded after the art of apothecary to be smeared on the head. The word was mistranslated in King James version as `calamus’ – Exodus 30:23 (Latimer 1988).

    The above means it was in the oil they used to rub on their skin, it was in the bread they ate called the Lord’s Supper, and it was in the incense that was burned in the temples.

    Marijuana is the Tree-Of-Life talked about in the bible, indeed it was a real tree that grew from the ground:

    Gen 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree, the tree of life was also growing in the garden…

    The above reveals that the Tree-Of-Life is indeed a real tree that grows in the ground.

    Rev 22:2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the ocean, was the tree of life. The foliage of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

    We are living in a day when the Tree-Of-Life (what the world calls marijuana) is healing everything it comes in contact with.

    The ONLY thing dangerous about marijuana are the cops who shoot people for having it:

    Number of American deaths per year that result directly or primarily from the following selected causes nationwide, according to World Almanacs, Life Insurance Actuarial (death) Rates, and the last 20 years of U.S. Surgeon Generals’ reports.

    TOBACCO – 340,000 to 450,000

    ALCOHOL (Not including 50% of all highway deaths and 65% of all murders) – 150,000+

    ASPIRIN (Including deliberate overdose) – 180 to 1,000+

    CAFFEINE (From stress, ulcers, and triggering irregular heartbeats, etc.) – 1,000 to 10,000

    “LEGAL” DRUG OVERDOSE (Deliberate or accidental) from legal, prescribed or patent medicines and/or mixing with alcohol – e.g. Valium/alcohol – 14,000 to 27,000

    ILLICIT DRUG OVERDOSE – (Deliberate or accidental) from all illegal drugs – 3,800 to 5,200


    (**Marijuana users also have the same or LOWER incidence of murders and highway deaths and accidents than the general NON-marijuana using population as a whole.** Cancer Study, UCLA; U.S. Funded ($6 million), First & Second Jamaican Studies, 1968 to 1974; Costa Rican Studies, 1980 to 1982; et al. LOWEST TOXICITY 100% of the studies done at dozens of American universities and research facilities show pot toxicity does not exist. Medical history does not record anyone dying from an overdose of marijuana (UCLA, Harvard, Temple, etc.)

    Accordingly a 1993 study done by the U.S. Department of Transportation came to the same conclusion as the above concerning marijuana and driving safety:

    “Marijuana, administered in a dose of 100 µg THC per kg of whole body weight…did not significantly change mean driving performance as measured…” – U.S Department of Transportation: Marijuana and Actual Driving Performance DOT HS 808 078

    The fact is people who use marijuana reflexes are not affected in a negative way and they become more conscious of safety, sometimes refusing to even drive.

    Marijuana is a plant with a safety record second to none.

    Anyone who would like to dispute these FACTS, point to a credible death that involves marijuana and nothing but marijuana, or hold your tongue.

    • Lawrence

      Oh please. So are you looking into the BIBLE to dictate law?

      And since you are so concerned with facts, there may be one you should be aware of. A neighbor of mine was driving after a few hits of a joint. Due to impaired judgement, from this mind altering drug, an accident developed.

      I was there and could see the effects of the pot on the mind. Back and forth: ” am I too close to the left?” no maybe too close to the right! On and on till an accident happened.

      Your”fact” that marijuana is a plant with a safety record second to none is false and misleading and not a fact at all. Paranoia and extreme clinical anxiety I have witnessed as a result of pot use. Talk to hospitals.

      • Shepherd Yerusalem

        As stated in the original post… point to a death that involves Marijuana and nothing but marijuana or shut-up.

        My facts are supported by the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION:

        “Marijuana, administered in a dose of 100 µg THC per kg of whole body weight…did not significantly change mean driving performance as measured…” – U.S Department of Transportation: Marijuana and Actual Driving Performance DOT HS 808 078

        point to a death that involves Marijuana and nothing but marijuana or shut-up.

        I’ll be waiting.

        • Lawrence

          I did not say it does or does not cause death. But it is hardly “safe’ when it causes a host of psychological adverse conditions.

          • Shepherd Yerusalem

            If it doesn’t cause death… it is safe.

            I just psychologically stubbed my toe… but I’ll be OK.


          • Lawrence

            That may be your altered definition, but the word safe can be used for instance child-safe. The word actually means free from harm or even risk of harm.

            Pot smokers seem to have a hard time being specific, articulate and definitive.

            And as I posted and we all know by a simple Google search, pot with it’s potential to cause paranoia and anxiety is NOT SAFE.

          • Shepherd Yerusalem

            As stated you are a full blown clown.

      • Brian Kelly B Bizzle


        Anecdotal evidence such as

        “II’m a marijuana prohibitionist who claims to have been driving with a friend who got into a car accident while driving on marijuana” just isn’t going to cut it or convince anyone, Lawrence.

        Now Lawrence, care to back up any of your wild claims with actual scientific evidence and creditable non-NIDA, non-anti-drug organizational sources?

        • Lawrence

          How about personal experience. like in this article.


          and yes, it did happen in the car. But dont need to believe my personal story, just google paranoia and pot. It’s all there, in case you are interested in seeing the other side of the story.

  • jar1807

    After traveling all over the US and staying for months in the South and Southwest, I’ve concluded MA is a backward State.

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