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Plenty of pundits—in Ohio and across the nation—were surprised when Issue 3 to legalize marijuana went down in a crushing 64 to 36 percent defeat, particularly because poll numbers had indicated a close margin of support for legalization. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that were misleading. If you looked strictly at media analysis of Article Sentiment, it appeared that sentiment was leaning towards legalization. So what did the experts miss?
While many thought that the $20 million ResponsibleOhio forked out for its advertising campaign would attract voters faster than free Slushies and Doritos, there was clearly a disconnect between expectations and reality this past Tuesday. An article by USA Today notes that over-confident backers and a cartoonish mascot contributed to the issue’s downfall, but the biggest issue was public perception that ResponsibleOhio was creating a monopoly to help the rich get richer. Our expanded media monitoring and analysis highlights that concern.
As you can see from the Coverage Over Time for the issue, media coverage linking legalization with the term monopoly had been slightly higher, but in the weeks before the election, article volume related to the monopoly (or oligopoly to be accurate) increased significantly. As University of Cincinnati political scientist David Niven said during election night commentary, “Boy, that word monopoly. It’s been an ugly word in politics since Theodore Roosevelt’s day.”
If there was any doubt that the business plan was becoming a bigger story than the legalization stances, the Share of Voice analysis below paints a very clear picture.
ResponsibleOhio plans to start again—and they’ll have to do it without legislating the growers since Ohio voters did pass Issue 2 which prevents a monopoly from being created within the Constitution. One commenter on the Dayton Daily News Facebook page summed up the voter sentiment, writing, “Give me the opportunity to vote on medical marijuana. Give me the opportunity to vote on free enterprise. Take edibles off the table. If those who feel strongly about legalizing it really want this to pass ... Talk to people who don't and find out what their concerns are.” And if they monitor media and conduct ongoing analysis, they can avoid being blind-sided again next November.