Next week, Americans in 37 states and Washington D.C. will have the opportunity to vote on 132 statewide ballot measures affecting issues including abortion, guns, marijuana, and election law. While the effects of these referenda will primarily be felt by people living in the states where they're on the ballot, many of the issues have recently been the subject of debate in state legislatures across the country, as well as in Congress. To understand where Americans stand on these issues, YouGov asked 1,000 Americans representative of adult citizens nationwide to weigh in on 16 issues voters will consider on state ballots across the country.
The poll asked respondents to consider whether they would support or oppose a particular ballot measure if it were proposed in their state. If a measure is already in effect in a person's state, they were asked to say how they would vote if it were not in effect. While the questions were inspired by statewide referenda on the ballot in 2022, the question wording provided to respondents does not match the exact wording provided to voters on their ballots — in part because some states have similar measures with different wording. Because the results represent national sentiment rather than the intentions of voters in relevant states — and because the poll's wording doesn't match the ballot measures — these findings are not intended to predict the outcomes of the referenda that inspired the poll.
Each of the 16 issues asked about except for one – removing the right to an abortion from the state constitution — is supported by a larger share of Americans than the share that oppose it; decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms and legalizing sports betting are close calls.
While most measures are highly polarizing in terms of the large gap in shares of Democrats and Republicans who support them, there are some issues — such as prohibiting changes to election law shortly before an election — that Democrats and Republicans largely agree on.
The Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade earlier this year placed decision-making on abortion in the hands of state legislatures. Shortly after the court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling, Kentucky enacted a near-total abortion ban, which pro-choice activists have contested based on privacy protections included in the state constitution. Kentucky voters are now considering an amendment that would remove abortion rights from the state's constitution. Americans overall are more likely to say they would oppose (49%) rather than support (30%) such a measure if it were proposed in their state.
Most Americans (54%) say they would support enshrining a right to reproductive freedom, including abortion, in their state's constitution — a proposal on the ballot this year in California, Michigan, and Vermont. Democrats are far more likely to support a measure that would have their state constitution protect abortion rights (77%) than remove abortion protections (21%). Republicans are more divided: 32% support protecting abortion rights, while 48% support removing them.
Drugs and alcohol
The legalization of marijuana is on the ballot in five states this year: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Our poll finds that more than half of Americans — 59% — support legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older (some referenda would set different age limits), while 25% oppose doing so. If all five of these states are successful in legalizing marijuana, the drug will be available recreationally in nearly half of states in the country. The proposal to legalize marijuana is supported by most Democrats (68%) and Independents (59%), as well as about half of Republicans (48%).
Americans are more divided on another drug-related referendum in Colorado, which would decriminalize the personal use of psychedelic mushrooms: 36% support it and 34% oppose it. A separate ballot initiative in Colorado would allow licensed retail stores to deliver alcohol using their own service or a third-party service: Twice as many Americans support (51%) as oppose (23%) this proposal.
Of all the ballot initiatives polled, the two that receive the largest share of support are related to election laws. More than two-thirds of Americans (71%) support an Alabama proposal that would require changes to laws governing elections to be implemented at least six months prior to the election. Big majorities of Democrats (70%) and Republicans (79%) say they would support such a law if it were proposed in their state.
Two-thirds of Americans (65%) say they would support a referendum in Nebraska that would require valid photo identification to vote. A voter ID requirement is supported by 52% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans.
In Nebraska and Nevada, voters this year will decide whether or not to raise each state's minimum wage. Nebraska's initiative, which proposes raising the minimum wage incrementally to $15 by 2026, is supported by 60% of Americans and opposed by only 22%. (Nevada's proposal raises it to $12 by 2024.) A proposal in Washington, D.C. that would increase the minimum wage for tipped employees to equal the minimum wage for non-tipped employees also receives widespread support, with 57% in favor of it and 20% opposed.
Voters in Illinois and Tennessee will decide on two very different initiatives related to collective bargaining and union membership. Many Americans are unsure about Illinois' proposal, which would create a state constitutional right to collective bargaining, though more support it (37%) than oppose it (17%). A somewhat larger share have an opinion about Tennessee's initiative, which would make it illegal for employers to require mandatory labor union membership: 46% are in favor of this, while 21% are opposed.
Gun legislation is on ballots in Oregon and Iowa this election. Most Americans (55%) are supportive of a referendum in Oregon that would ban gun magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition and require criminal background checks for gun purchases; only 31% of Americans oppose this proposal. Democrats (76%) are far more likely than Republicans (40%) to support it.
A proposal in Iowa would expand the rights of gun owners by creating a state constitutional right to bear arms that includes protections going beyond the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. By 43% to 33%, Americans support this proposal, though it is less popular than Oregon's ban on high-capacity magazines. A state right to bear arms is supported by 70% of Republicans but only 24% of Democrats.
Age limits are on the ballot in Wyoming, with voters being asked to decide whether to raise the mandated retirement age to 75 for judges on the state's supreme court and district courts. A majority of Americans (62%) support this proposal, while only 15% oppose it. Most Democrats (73%) and Republicans (59%) are in favor of it.
Voters in five states — Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont — will vote on whether to remove language from their state constitutions that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. A majority of Americans (56%) say they would support removing this language from their own state constitutions, while just 19% say they would oppose doing so. Democrats (66%) are more likely than Republicans (49%) to support removing it.
Two ballot initiatives posed to voters in California this year involve legalizing online and in-person sports betting. Americans are divided on the legalization of sports betting, with slightly more in favor of it (37%) than opposed (32%).
— Carl Bialik and Linley Sanders contributed to this article.
This poll was conducted on October 25 - 27, 2022, among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.
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