Friday, October 27, 2017
The title of this post is the headline of this notable new FiveThirtyEight posting by Harry Enten. Here is an excerpt (with my emphasis added):
A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that a record high 64 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. It follows other surveys published this year also showing that a clear majority of Americans support making marijuana consumption legal. But what’s most interesting about the Gallup survey is that it found that a majority of Americans of all political stripes are for legalization. Gallup found that 72 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents and 51 percent of Republicans support marijuana becoming legal.
This makes marijuana one of the least polarized issues of our time (and one that some political party might be smart to take advantage of). Issues such as abortion, gun control and health care find Democrats and Republicans so far apart that it’s hard to win over many voters of the other party when adopting a stance popular with your own party’s voters. Marijuana isn’t that way.
And yet, despite the clear bipartisan appeal of marijuana, it has only been approved for recreational use in eight states and Washington, D.C. Neither Democrat Hillary Clinton nor Republican Donald Trump came out in favor of recreational marijuana purchases during the 2016 election. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has actually taken a harder-line stance on marijuana than recent administrations, including criticizing states that have made it legal.
Democrats and Republicans might be slow to fully support recreational marijuana because, despite it being broadly popular, supporters don’t feel all that strongly about it. Only 31 percent of Americans “strongly” favored legalization in a 2016 PRRI poll, despite 63 percent being in favor overall. My own 2014 study of marijuana ballot measures suggested they don’t raise young voter turnout, even though young voters were the most likely to favor legalization. Just 28 percent of Americans told Marist College in March 2017 that they would be likely to buy and use marijuana if the federal government legalized it. (Of course, some people may be unwilling to tell a pollster this.)
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