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WBUR Poll: Massachusetts Voters Having Second Thoughts on Casinos and Marijuana

According to a new WBUR Poll released today, opinions about two key social issues—casino gambling and marijuana legalization—are changing in Massachusetts. The WBUR Poll finds casino support has dropped below 50 percent, with 46 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed. Conversely, support to legalize marijuana for recreational use has risen, with 48 percent supporting it, and 41 percent opposed.

The WBUR Poll of 500 likely voters, released today by 90.9 WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station, comes as advocate groups eye ballot measures on both issues. Advocates for marijuana legalization are pushing for a 2016 referendum, while gambling opponents are seeking a measure on the ballot this fall that would repeal the state’s casino law.

“Marijuana legalization is now narrowly favored in Massachusetts,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group which was commissioned by WBUR to conduct the poll. “The shift in opinion here echoes national trends showing increased support for legalization.”

A survey last year by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17, 2013 among 1,501 adults, found the majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. Local and national advocates hope to see Massachusetts join both Colorado and Washington State in legalizing use of the drug.

Unlike attitudes toward marijuana, casino support is suffering a dramatic decline. Four months ago, a poll from the Western New England University Polling Institute showed voters statewide supported casinos by a 60-33 margin (Nov. 2013). In January, the previous WBUR Poll suggested that support was waning. And now, today’s WBUR Poll results reveal an even larger drop; the three-point margin is within the poll’s margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Koczela says it’s difficult to say why public opinion is changing on casinos, but he points to a string of unflattering news stories about the companies vying for one of three casino licenses — and the state regulators reviewing their bids. WBUR Reporter David Scharfenberg conducted follow-up interviews with several poll respondents. He notes in his story for WBUR’s Morning Edition that for some voters, “bedrock concerns about the impact on poor people — and on broader communities — are a factor.”

About the WBUR Poll:

  • 90.9 WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station, commissioned the non-partisan MassINC Polling Group to survey 500 likely voters in the 2014 general election. Polling was conducted March 14-16, 2014.
  • Live telephone interviews were conducted via both landline and cell phone using conventional registration based sampling procedures.
  • The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 4.4 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.
  • For the complete WBUR Poll report, including topline and crosstabs, visit www.wbur.org.
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