Money, Opinion Propelled Prop. 36

Money, Opinion Propelled Prop. 36
Posted by FoM on November 15, 2000 at 06:52:40 PT
By Bill Wallace, Chronicle Staff Writer
Source: San Francisco Examiner
The landslide victory of Proposition 36, the drug treatment measure on last week's ballot, appears to have been caused both by a genuine change in voters' views about drugs and a well-financed election campaign that buried its opponents. Proponents say that the lopsided 61 percent yes vote demonstrates a sea change in public attitudes about drug policy and a disenchantment with the war on drugs that began during the Reagan administration. 
Public opinion experts indicate that the measure's backers weren't exaggerating. "We have asked a general question about public support for the legalization of marijuana for the last 25 years," said Tom Smith, director of social survey for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. "Support went up in the '70s and back down in the '80s. But since 1990, it has been going up steadily -- from 16 percent to 33 percent this year." "When you see a doubling of support for anything in a decade, that indicates a pretty substantial shift of public opinion about it," Smith said. However, the landslide seems to have also been the result of a campaign that spent more than $3.8 million -- much of it on well-designed direct mail advertising. Proposition 36 requires that first- and second-offense drug violators be sent to drug treatment programs instead of facing trial and possible incarceration. The measure makes $60 million available immediately to expand treatment programs and adds an additional $120 million each year afterward. It prohibits drug testing and also bars sending offenders to jail as soon as they violate probation for a drug offense. According to campaign spending reports filed with the California secretary of state by Oct. 26, one week before the election, the California Campaign for New Drug Policies, organized and run by Zimmerman and Markman, a Santa Monica political firm, spent more than $1 million just on the petition drive to qualify the measure for the ballot. The committee -- which was largely bankrolled by billionaire philanthropist George Soros and his allies, Peter B. Lewis and John Sperling, followed up with $1.6 million in television spots, $261,932 in slate mailers and other campaign literature, and at least $65,000 worth of radio advertising. Direct mail slate cards from groups as diverse as the Parents' Ballet Guide and the Save Proposition 13 Committee carried the pro-36 message. In a canny move, proponents stressed the potential tax savings promised by the measure in order to convince conservative voters who otherwise might have opposed reducing the punishment for some drug offenses. The spending blitz by Proposition 36's supporters left the measure's opponents in the dust. By Oct. 26, Californians United Against Drug Abuse had raised only $223,804 -- less than the amount the pro campaign spent on slate mailers alone. They had spent only $32,223 on direct mail and other literature, and only $55,000 -- about one-thirtieth of the Pro-36 total -- on television ads. Ray McNally, who ran the anti-36 campaign, said his group spent about $400, 000 in opposing the measure -- and were outspent nearly 10 to 1. "When we got an opportunity to sit down with people and explain the shortcomings of Prop. 36, we were overwhelmingly successful in getting them to change their minds and vote against it," McNally said. "If we had had the money to go over the details of the measure with the voters, it would have lost . . . But if you don't have the money to contact the voters, you can't change their minds." All the advertising in the world will not convince people to buy a product they do not want. And proponents say that California's voters were simply ready for Proposition 36. Tom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center told The Chronicle that U. S. voters have been slowly turning against the punitive approach on all criminal justice issues in recent years and have become far more supportive of less stringent law enforcement strategies. "There has been a drop in support for the punitive or 'get tough' approach," Smith said. "In large measure, it is because the crime rate has been dropping and people just don't think of crime as being such a big problem." Similarly, he said, the public has become a great deal friendlier toward a therapeutic approach for drug abusers instead of reliance on prosecution and incarceration. "When we ask people about government spending priorities, more people support rehabilitation than simply spending more money on drug (enforcement), which has a more punitive sound to it," Smith said. "There has been a general drop in support for the punitive approach. The support has been for the public health approach over the punitive, and proponents have been arguing that it is simply more cost effective to do it that way." The same sort of shift in attitudes among U.S. youth has been spotted in the "Monitoring the Future" opinion surveys conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. "In the 1990s we saw a reduction in the proportion of high school seniors who thought that personal marijuana use should be prohibited by law," said Lloyd Johnston, a principal investigator in the project. Johnston said that in 1990, 56 percent of the youth who responded to the survey thought that smoking marijuana should be outlawed. Last year, the number had dropped to 39 percent. "That's a pretty substantial shift in public opinion, " he said. Equally significant is the upswing in the number of young people who believe that marijuana should be legalized outright. Sixteen percent of the teens sampled for the study in 1990 said they thought marijuana should be legalized. Last year, 27 percent supported legalization. "There's been a major shift in both of those in a more liberal direction, if you will," Johnston said.E-mail Bill Wallace at: bwallace sfchronicle.comNote: Drug treatments OKd By 61% of votes. Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)Author: Bill Wallace, Chronicle Staff WriterPublished: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 Copyright: 2000 San Francisco ExaminerContact: letters examiner.comWebsite: Articles - Proposition 36:
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Comment #1 posted by observer on November 15, 2000 at 10:50:48 PT
Whoops! Accidently Forgot to Mention Facts, Again
Did the nice prohibitionist editor "accidently happen" to forget mentioning the billions of dollars spend by the government to demonize marijuana and other drug users, money that is spent to attempt to undermine attempts at returning traditional freedoms to Americans? Did they forget that detail? The drug war often seems to adversely affect the memories of prohibitionist propagandists, so sometimes we need to help them remember.Overall, the drug office's five-year, roughly billion-dollar ad buy enriched a wide range of media. Television, both local and network, got well over $80 million in fiscal year 1999; radio got more than $10 million; billboards, transit and the like got over $5 million, and in-school efforts got a similar amount. Print, both newspapers and magazines, received some $17 million, with about $10 million of that going to magazines, as detailed above. The Drug War Gravy Train, March 2000 ... However, the landslide seems to have also been the result of a campaign that spent more than $3.8 million -- much of it on well-designed direct mail advertising. So, once again, we see how the government lap-dog press has somewhat selective memory. The "3.8 million" spent in support of Prop. 36 really doesn't seem like too much, compared to the saturation-level barrage of pro-government, anti-legalization (mostly anti-cannabis) ONDCP propaganda purchased to the tune of a cool billion. Not to mention the fact that is "2 for 1" money: for each dollar the government spends on anti-freedom propaganda, the networks and publishers give the government two dollars worth of ad space. Not to mention the insidious ONDCP propaganda woven into moralistic little sitcom story lines. And that's not to mention, also, the expensive ad-space that other non- and quasi- government entities, like the the "Partnership for a Drug-Free America" sponsors and donates for free, outright. Then again, I suppose that mentioning inconvenient little facts like that might eviscerate whatever points the editor was attemtping to make, decrying the money Sperling and Soros spent. My only question is, do editorials like this one, in papers like the San Francisco Examiner, qualify also for ONDCP money, for being "on message"? 
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