Sam Tracy ’13 defended his senior thesis, “Determinants of Electoral Support for Marijuana Legalization in the United States.” (abstract below) He was advised by Prof. Sam Best. Congratulations!
This paper provides one of the first examinations of causes of support for marijuana legalization. Using a combination of data sources, including public opinion polling, county-level vote counts, and county-level demographic information, it analyzes determinants of support for the general concept and specific ballot measures that would put it into practice. This study finds that support for marijuana legalization is associated with age, gender, religiousness, ideology, and party affiliation, though many of these gaps are closing over time. It also detects strong correlations between voting patterns for specific marijuana legalization ballot initiatives and voting for presidential candidates, same-sex marriage initiatives, and abortion access initiatives in all states; correlations with medical marijuana enrollment in Colorado; and no noticeable correlations with the presence of mega-churches or the severity of marijuana prohibition enforcement. These findings help place marijuana legalization in the political science literature, and will serve to inform future debates on the issue.