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Poll Finds Majority in SD Oppose Legalizing Recreational Marijuana; IM 27 Backer Doubts Results

The South Dakota News Watch/Chiesman Center for Democracy July poll revealed good news for Dakotans for Health and its proposed 2024 initiated amendment to codify Roe v. Wade. The same poll bodes not so well for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws and its 2022 Initiated Measure 27 to legalize marijuana:

The poll of 500 registered voters in July found that 43.8% of respondents support legalization of recreational marijuana, and that 54.4% oppose legalization.

…The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Florida from July 19-22, 2022, and was commissioned by South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota. Respondents were selected randomly and were representative of South Dakota voters overall in terms of age, gender, geographic location and political party. Respondents were called on cell phones and landlines; the margin of error is plus or minus 4.5%.

In the poll, 27.4% of respondents strongly supported legalization and 16.4% were somewhat supportive. Meanwhile, 39.4% strongly opposed legalization while 15.0% were somewhat in opposition, with 1.8% unsure [Bart Pfankuch, “Statewide Poll Shows Referendum [sic] on Recreational Marijuana Legalization in S.D. Could Fail in November,” South Dakota News Watch, 2022.08.24].

(Sorry—I gotta throw the election-nerd flag at the SDNW headline. A referendum is a ballot measure that puts to a public vote a measure passed by the Legislature. An initiative is a ballot measure that puts to a public vote a measure proposed by citizens, not the Legislature. Initiated Measure 27 is an initiative, not a referred law.)

SDBML chief Matthew Schweich hit Facebook right away with three reasons he thinks the SDNW/CCD poll is inaccurate:

  1. Very low support for marijuana legalization in the Sioux Falls area—39% for, 58% against, compared with Yes votes for SDBML’s Amendment A in 2020 of 60% in Minnehaha County and 55% in Lincoln County.
  2. Very strong support among older voters, which Schweich says doesn’t match results from polls in every other state.
  3. The ten-point drop in support from the 54% statewide win for Amendment A two years ago—Schweich says he’s never seen support for marijuana legalization drop more than a couple points in other state polls. Schweich also contends that the fact that no state has ever legalized marijuana and then repealed that legalization indicates that voters have never shifted that strongly against what Schweich calls a good policy.

The unwelcome results may look strange, but Pfankuch notes that pollster Mason-Dixon wasn’t far off in its 2020 pot polling:

A Mason-Dixon poll commissioned by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper and KELO-TV in October 2020 was prescient in capturing public sentiment about marijuana ballot measures that year. The poll of 625 registered voters proved to be remarkably accurate, showing that 74% of respondents supported IM 26 (to allow medical marijuana) and that 51% supported Amendment A (to allow recreational marijuana sales). The vote tally two months after the poll showed 70% of voters in favor of IM 26 and 54% in favor of Amendment A [Pfankuch, 2022.08.24].

Five Thirty Eight gives Mason-Dixon an A– for its polling, finding the firm’s results have matched candidate outcomes 86% of the time. Where Mason-Dixon has been significantly off in South Dakota, it has generally undercounted conservative votes.

Polls can be wrong. The Mason-Dixon data doesn’t look like data from the most recent vote on marijuana policy in South Dakota or other polls in other states. But absent other current data or evidence that Mason-Dixon erred in selecting voters to query or phrased its questions wrong, we won’t know if they scooped up unrepresentative data until the statewide vote in November.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-08-25

    Despite lies from the South Dakota Republican Party video lootery, suicide, domestic violence and homelessness are inextricably linked putting children at risk to more catastrophic consequences far more often than has happened in states that have legalized or lessened penalties for casual use of cannabis.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-08-25

    I am very curious to know what has happened in public opinion with marijuana. Has sentiment shifted back against legalization since 2020? Did the poll include some bias in either sample or questions? If so, did that bias create unreliable results on its abortion questions?

    The abortion results and the marijuana results seem to conflict with each other. The majority support for abortion rights and a referendum on the subject seem to run counter to the majority opposition to legal recreational marijuana. I would the same liberals and libertarians who would say Yes on the abortion questions would be likely to say Yes on the marijuana questions. That seeming disparity makes me think that, if there is any error in the poll, it is in the phrasing of the questions, not the method for sampling the population.

    But maybe the results are accurate. Maybe the press attention to abortion rights this summer has outweighed attention to marijuana and fired people up to respond more favorably to abortion rights and see less merit in defending the right to smoke pot. If the results are accurate, what social factors could explain them?

  3. O 2022-08-25

    I would argue one thing that has changes is the general political climate: not so much the specific attitude on issues, but the general “own the lobbies” sentiment of the right. The more the left is in favor of something, the more the right is going to push back — just to be pushing back (even against their own interests), As election season gets closer, and more issues perceived as partisan get discusses, I would guess both these issues will suffer from knee-jerk push back. In a deep-red tribal state, that bodes well for neither of their long-term success.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-08-25

    Just like with women’s rights South Dakota’s psychotic legislature should admit it’s too corrupted to regulate the cannabis industry, legalize simple possession then get out of the way while tribal communities become the sole producers and retailers.

  5. grudznick 2022-08-25

    Perhaps people are just coming to their un-stoned senses, no longer confused by the out-of-state dark-money that mixed the medical weed issue with the stoner toker issue. Now they imagine a horde of Rainbow Family sorts descending on their neighborhood, perhaps camping in the woods in their own back yards, and they fear the Demon Weed. They see the horrors it causes society.

  6. All Mammal 2022-08-25

    In addition to too many followers in SD, there’s too many slow-wave minds.
    It has been a proven success in scheisty children’s advertising tactics: nag, repeat, repeat.. When followers hear something told to them over and over and over for over 2 years, they’ll eventually repeat it. And mom will eventually give in and buy the cereal that causes juvenile diabetes just to stop the nagging. The law used to regulate how kids were manipulated by constantly bombarding them with ads because it isn’t ethical.
    At least kids have an excuse for being such easily tricked little freaks.. all they needed was time to jeopardize the integrity of reason in slow brainwave followers.
    What happened to privacy and keeping tyrannical, big gov out of our personal decisions? I’d trust a pot-pusher over a pot-hater or politician any day.

  7. Richard Schriever 2022-08-26

    Margin of error = +/- 4.5% = equal total possible difference of 9%. Could be precisely the inverse of the reported results and still be “valid” as an outcome.

  8. Ryan 2022-08-26

    My guess is the poll over-counted the opinions of lonely losers who still answer unexpected phonecalls from unknown numbers in 2022. Those people are almost always republicans.

  9. scott 2022-08-26

    I’m surprised at this. I did not vote for this in 2020. I’m leaning to voting for it now, just because the people voted for it and Noem done her thing to kill it. I thought there would be people that would vote for it to spite Noem.

  10. grudznick 2022-08-28

    I have updates on this poll. The populace is in unrest and not ready to roll over to the Demon Weed. The masses are growing, and no amount of toking shall shrink them. Criminal drugginess which causes tire slashings and window bashings and people running away without paying their pizza bill will not be tolerated in South Dakota.

  11. Donald Pay 2022-08-28

    Grudz has turned into a commie. “The masses?” Really, Grudz. Let’s sing “The Internationale.”

  12. Prairie Jane 2022-08-31

    I don’t know how/if this would show up in polls, but I always said that having cannabis on the same ballot as Trump was a huge win for cannabis advocates.
    Trump activated a non-college educated, blue collar demographic that had traditionally not voted before, but uses cannabis recreationally almost uniformly, but it was not enough to get them to the polls.

    Just a thought.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-01

    Interesting, Prairie Jane. If that’s the case, could that dynamic also explain the poll results? It seems there’s been a phenomenon of Tump voters not telling pollsters they’ll vote for Trump, either lying to pollsters or just not participating; might those same voters also skew this poll by not participating or by not stating their actual position on pot? If that dynamic is at play, would the absence of accurate answers from that segment of the electorate also inflate the support for abortion rights?

  14. John 2022-09-07

    Don’t believe the poll. It showed the lowest support for legalizing recreational marijuana in the Sioux Falls area.
    In 2020 over 72% of Sioux Falls area voters supported recreational marijuana. This poll claims that now only 38% support it.

    Not surprisingly, due to legalization of recreational and medical cannabis in the US – border seizures of cannabis are down 93% since 2013.

    Bottom line, Portugal was correct 20 years ago. Decriminalizing small quantities of drugs reduces crime and reduces use. The war on drugs was a colossal waste of time and resources. But, one should not be surprised if South Dakota voters allow neighboring states to collect tax revenue that they could harvest.

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