On Sarah Palin, Potheads and Polling

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Public Policy Polling, one of the rising autodial outfits, put out a national poll asking about marijuana legalization and use last week. For fun, they added a question about the 2012 Republican primary, and then cross tabulated the results. So now we know who pot smokers want for president–except not really. Here are the results.

Among Republicans who say they’ve smoked Marijuana:

Palin 25
Gingrich 22
Huckabee 17
Romney 17
Paul 8

Among Republicans who say they have not smoked Marijuana:

Huckabee 24
Romney 23
Gingrich 21
Palin 21
Paul 3

Apparently one of the effects of marijuana–in addition to the munchies and a taste for dubstep–is an attracti0n to Sarah Palin and an aversion to Mike Huckabee. Except: No, not at all.

I called Tom Jensen at PPP and he was the first to basically distance himself from finding any meaningful signals in these numbers, something he hints at in the original blog post. The sample of Republicans who had smoked pot was 83, or 21 percent of all the Republicans polled, which resulted in a 10.7 percent margin of error, he said. The results are, in other words, about as meaningful as throwing darts at a wall after spinning around and smoking a fatty spliff.

Now for the meta: Perhaps the most interesting part of the PPP findings, however, is the fact that these numbers were posted at all. This is exactly the sort of thing that could get attention in the current media environment–Marijuana! Palin!–and more polling organizations are playing this viral game. Back in March, I reported on a poll by Harris Research that claimed to have found that 38 percent of Republicans say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did,” whatever that means. This new breed of polls is motivated less by a desire to describe the national mood, and more by a desire to get people’s attention. In the case of the Harris Poll, it was done, in part, to promote a book. That’s a big shift, and it may not always help to increase the public’s understanding of the national mood.