News

Near majority of Canadians back legal pot but it doesn’t look like a vote-getter in 2019: poll

'We certainly see it’s not a vote-getter among Conservatives or NDP, or even Green Party [supporters],' says Campaign Research CEO Eli Yufest.

A haze of marijuana smoke hangs over Parliament Hill on April 20, during the annual celebration of the drug on the Hill's front lawn. A new Campaign Research poll found only 15 per cent of Canadians said they would be more likely to vote Liberal because of the Trudeau government's plan to legalize recreational marijuana, while 25 per cent said it made them less likely to cast a ballot for the party. The Hill Times file photo

PUBLISHED :Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 3:00 PM

Canadians are divided on legalizing recreational marijuana, with nearly half supporting the sale and distribution of the illicit substance, however most say it won’t influence whether they vote Liberal in 2019, according to a new poll.

The Campaign Research survey, conducted Sept. 8 to 11 and released first to The Hill Times, found that 49 per cent of respondents approved legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in 2018, as proposed by the Liberal government, with another 39 per cent disapproving.

The remaining 11 per cent said they had no opinion on the issue.

The numbers are largely in line with the results of a Campaign Research poll in April when 50 per cent approved and 38 per cent disapproved.

  

The federal Liberals promised in the 2015 election campaign to legalize the recreational use of marijuana if they won. In the spring, they tabled legislation designed to end the prohibition on recreational marijuana in 2018. Bill C-45, known as the Cannabis Act, sets out the rules for the legal consumption of recreational pot, restricting sales to those 18 years or older, limiting personal possession to 30 grams of dried cannabis, and allowing consumers to grow or buy up to four plants, in addition to a suite of other regulations.

The Liberal government has also tabled another piece of legislation, Bill C-46, that would bring in tougher penalties for drug- and alcohol- impaired driving.

Despite the heightened media attention, the Campaign Research poll found that only one in seven voters (15 per cent) was more likely to vote Liberal because of marijuana legalization, while 25 per cent said it made them less likely to vote Liberal.

Overall, 53 per cent said it wouldn’t affect their decision to vote for the Liberals in the next election.

  

Campaign Research CEO Eli Yufest said legalization was popular with the Liberal base but failed to translate into increased support across the political spectrum, pointing out that 27 per cent of Liberal supporters polled said they would be more likely to cast a ballot for the party because of marijuana legalization. Only four per cent of Conservative supporters, 12 per cent of NDP backers, and 11 per cent of Green supporters said they’d be more likely to back the Liberals because of their pot stance.

“It’s sort of galvanizing their base and perhaps keeping them more firmly entrenched in the party,” Mr. Yufest told The Hill Times of the effect of marijuana legalization on support for the Liberal Party.

“We certainly see it’s not a vote-getter among Conservatives or NDP, or even Green Party [supporters].”

The federal Conservatives, under new leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.), have come out against legalization and the Liberal government’s legislative package, on safety and public health grounds. The NDP has also raised concerns about the regulatory approach proposed by the Liberals, though the party is supportive of legalization itself, with MPs hounding the government to immediately decriminalize pot so people won’t have to fear arrest for simple possession charges in the interim.

  

Along political lines, 61 per cent of Liberal supporters backed legalization, compared to only 29 per cent of Conservative supporters, and 55 per cent of NDP backers. Bloc supporters were the most closely divided, with 52 per cent disapproving and 48 per cent in support of legalization.

The poll reached out to 1,770 Canadian voters as part of a national online omnibus survey. Online polls are not considered to be truly random, but a random poll with the same total sample size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 per cent, or 19 out of 20 times. Margins of error would be higher for categories measuring support by federal voting intention, or region, for instance, because they have smaller sample sizes.

Online polls randomly pull participants from large groups of people who have signed up to participate in polling research for compensation.

Besides Mr. Yufest, Toronto’s Campaign Research includes principal Richard Ciano, a former national vice-president of the Conservative Party of Canada, and principal Nick Kouvalis, a former campaign manager for Conservative MP and one-time leadership candidate Kellie Leitch (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.).

Younger Canadians were among the most supportive of legalization in the Campaign Research poll, with 62 per cent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 backing legal recreational pot. The only more supportive demographic groups were Atlantic Canadians and Green Party voters, who both registered 70 per cent approval levels. Marijuana smokers, unsurprisingly, were overwhelmingly in support, at 89 per cent, though 40 per cent of non-smokers also backed legalization.

Geographically, 45 per cent of respondents in the vote-rich Greater Toronto Area backed legalization, compared to 42 per cent in opposition. In the city of Toronto, 49 per cent approved, with 36 per cent disapproving.

Alberta and Quebec were the only provinces or regions with more respondents disapproving of legalization than approving, though in both cases the difference was only a single point, well within the margin of error. In British Columbia, the approval-disapproval margin sat at 47-39 per cent, while in Ontario it stood at 52-37 per cent, and in the Prairies it was a 42-42 per cent tie.

mvigliotti@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times