Marijuana could sway the 2016 Presidential election. In a recent piece of commentary for Roll Call, political consultant Steven Moore calls attention to an interesting phenomenon, which shows the millennial generation is more likely to cast a ballot in an election if the issue of marijuana is at stake. He goes on to suggest that if a Republican expects to get their hands on the keys to the White House in 2016, it will be crucial to get the nation’s youth on their side, and the best strategy for achieving this goal may be to take a pro-marijuana platform.
Although the constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida failed in last November’s election, Moore explains that Republicans should pay close attention to the youthful enthusiasm generated by the issue. While voter turnout across the nation was low, Florida experienced a 10% increase from 2010. In addition, millennials took over a larger share of the electorate by 6%, while seniors dropped off by 10 points.
To further prove marijuana is a hot issue among millennial voters, look to the passing of Colorado’s Amendment 64 in 2012. During the election, the state saw 11% more voters under the age of 29 than in 2008. And in Washington state, there was a 4% increase in voters under the age of 30.
If medical marijuana makes it to the Florida ballot in 2016, which is expected, Moore suggests it will raise “marijuana law reform from a state issue to a national issue” since “most strategists see few options for a Republican in the White House if Democrats win Florida.”
Obama won Florida in 2008 with 61% of the millennial vote; 66% in 2012. Yet, Republicans McCain and Romney only lost by a few points. “With the margin so slim, and the trend over time going the wrong way, Republicans don’t necessarily need to win millennials, they just need to not lose them so badly,” said Moore.
Although it might prove challenging for Republicans to attract millennials while protecting their base, Moore believes the issue might not be as difficult to conquer as it has been in the past. “An October ’14 Gallup poll shows that nationally, one in three conservatives and four in ten Republicans favor making marijuana completely legal,” he said, adding that “Republican support for marijuana legalization has nearly doubled since 2006.”
It is true that marijuana legalization is largely seen as a state issue, which Moore argues would be accurate if it were not “for the disproportionate influence the state of Florida has on presidential elections.”
It is for this reason that Moore cautions Republicans not to speak ill of pot reform. “Prohibitionist rhetoric may drive away the unique intersection of millennial and Republican voters likely to decide next year’s razor-thin presidential margins in Florida. Alternatively, addressing the issue in a thoughtful and strategic manner may serve to bring these voters into the GOP tent, and help assure a Republican in the White House.”