Adults in California narrowly oppose marijuana legalization but likely voters are evenly split on the issue (48% yes – 48% no), according to the Public Policy Institute of California’s latest comprehensive polling of the state. From the PPIC report:

Californians are still divided on legalizing marijuana, with 46 percent saying it should be made legal while  51 percent disagree. Findings were similar in September 2010 (47% legal, 49% illegal) and in May 2010 (48% legal, 49% illegal). Likely voters hold similar views. In 2010, voters rejected Proposition 19 (53.5% no), which would have legalized marijuana in the state. Most Democrats (53%) support legalizing marijuana use, while most Republicans (59%) oppose it. Independents are much more likely to support making marijuana use legal (56%) than keeping it illegal (40%). Over half of liberals (59%) and moderates (52%) favor legalization, while 68 percent of conservatives oppose legalization of marijuana.

The San Francisco Bay Area is the only region where residents are more likely to say marijuana should be made legal (55%) than illegal (40%). In other regions, residents of the Central Valley (60%), Los Angeles (57%), and the Other Southern California region (53%) prefer to keep marijuana illegal. Latinos (68%) are most likely to oppose legalization, compared to 53 percent of Asians and 41 percent of whites. A majority (55%) of whites favor legalization. Just over half of men (53% legal, 44% illegal) think marijuana should be legal; a majority of women disagree (39% legal, 58% illegal).

The loss last year of Proposition 19, a marijuana legalization ballot initiative, hasn’t caused a significant decrease, or increase, in the support for marijuana legalization in the state. This is mildly positive news for the reform movement going forward. There is the worry, with any issue put on the ballot, that if it loses, more people will go along with popular opinion.

This poll would indicate that marijuana policy reform advocates don’t need to be too concerned about a popular opinion backlash if their initiative narrowly fails.