Massachusetts Voters Support “Death with Dignity”, Medical Marijuana Use
Posted June 5, 2012
Latest Survey Finds Majorities Back Both Proposed Ballot Initiatives
Sixty percent of voters in Massachusetts said they support allowing terminally ill people to legally obtain medication to end their lives, according to the latest survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute, MassLive.com and The Republican newspaper of Springfield, MA.
Sixty-four percent of voters, meanwhile, backed legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and 27 percent opposed the idea, according to the survey of 504 voters conducted May 29 – 31, 2012.
Voters may have a final say on the two issues in the Nov. 6 election. Supporters of ballot initiatives that would legalize both practices are gathering signatures to place the questions before voters in the fall.
Click here to view full results from the poll.
The survey asked voters whether they supported or opposed “allowing people who are dying to legally obtain medication that they could use to end their lives.” Support for the “death with dignity” proposal outnumbered opposition by a margin of two to one in the Polling Institute survey, with 60 percent of voters saying they support the idea, 29 percent opposing it, and 11 percent saying they did not know or declining to provide a response.
Opinions varied along party lines, with 67 percent of Democrats favoring the proposal, compared to 58 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans.
Support for the measure also varied by age. While 61 percent of voters ages 18 to 49 and 72 percent of voters ages 50 to 64 support the idea, the same was true for only 46 percent of voters ages 65 and older. Those aged 65 and older also were the most likely of any demographic group to say they were not sure or to decline to answer the question, with 20 percent choosing those options.
Views about the “death with dignity” proposal also varied by religion and religious observance. Majorities of Catholic and Protestant voters supported the proposal, but opinions differed based on how often voters in those religious categories attend services.
Fifty-two percent of all Catholic voters said they support the idea, 36 percent said they oppose it, and 12 percent said they did not know or declined to answer. But among Catholic voters who attend church at least once a week or almost every week, 52 percent opposed the “death with dignity” proposal, and 37 percent said they support it. Catholic voters who attend church less frequently – about once a month, seldom or never – backed the idea by more than a two-to-one margin, 62 percent to 25 percent.
Among all Protestant voters, 56 percent supported the proposal, and 28 percent were opposed. Opinion was much more narrowly divided among Protestant voters who attend services at least once a week or almost every week, with 42 percent opposed and 38 percent in favor.
“The results indicate that religious identity is not the only distinguishing factor when it comes to views on this issue,” said Tim Vercellotti, associate professor of political science and director of the Polling Institute. “Responses varied not just by religious identity, but also by religious observance. When it comes to Catholics and Protestants, the more churched you are, so to speak, the more likely you are to oppose the ‘death with dignity’ proposal.”
Voters from other religious backgrounds overwhelmingly supported the measure, with 76 percent in favor and 19 percent opposed. Voters who identified themselves as atheists or agnostic backed the idea by an almost nine-to-one margin.
The survey also found that public opinion about the medical marijuana measure varied by partisanship, gender, age and education.
When asked whether they would support or oppose legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, 74 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents endorsed the measure, while Republican voters were almost evenly divided, with 47 percent opposed and 45 percent in favor.
More than two-thirds of female voters supported legalizing medical marijuana, while the same was true for 58 percent of male voters. Younger voters also responded more favorably than did senior citizens. Sixty-eight percent of voters ages 18 to 49 and 50 to 64 supported legalizing medical marijuana compared to 54 percent of voters age 65 and older.
Views also varied by education, with 68 percent of voters with college degrees endorsing the measure, compared to 61 percent of voters with some college or with a high school diploma or less.
The Western New England University Polling Institute survey consists of telephone interviews with 552 adults ages 18 and older drawn from across Massachusetts using random-digit-dialing May 29-31, 2012. The sample yielded 504 adults who said they are registered to vote in Massachusetts. Unless otherwise noted, the figures in this release are based on the statewide sample of registered voters.
Braun Research, Inc. of Princeton, NJ conducted the telephone interviews under the direction of The Polling Institute. The call center dialed household telephone numbers, known as “landline numbers,” and cell phone numbers for the survey. In order to draw a representative sample from the landline numbers, interviewers first asked for the youngest male age 18 or older who was home at the time of the call, and if no adult male was present, the youngest female age 18 or older who was at home at the time of the call. Interviewers dialing cell phone numbers interviewed the respondent who answered the cell phone after confirming three things: (1) that the respondent was in a safe setting to complete the survey; (2) that the respondent was an adult age 18 or older; and (3) that the respondent was a resident of Massachusetts. The landline and cell phone data were combined and weighted to reflect the adult population of Massachusetts by gender, race, age, and county of residence using U.S. Census estimates for Massachusetts.
All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. The sampling error for a sample of 504 registered voters is +/- 4.4 percent, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Thus if 55 percent of registered voters said they support legalizing marijuana for medical use, one would be 95 percent sure that the true figure would be between 50.6 percent and 59.4 percent (55 percent +/- 4.4 percent) had all Massachusetts voters been interviewed, rather than just a sample. Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample. Sampling error does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, or context effects.
Established in 2005, the Western New England University Polling Institute conducts research on issues of importance to Massachusetts and the region. The Institute provides the University’s faculty and students with valuable opportunities to participate in public opinion research. Additional information about the Polling Institute is available at www1.wne.edu/pollinginst.
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