Saturday, October 26, 2019
Though the direction of public polling is never a sure forecast of the direction of public policy, the rapid reform of marijuana laws at the state level in the US has move in sync with a rapid rise in public support for such reform. And, as detailed in this Gallup posting, headlined "U.S. Support for Legal Marijuana Steady in Past Year," polling this year suggests that support for marijuana legalization is not waning (but also not growing). Here are the details:
Americans' support for legalizing marijuana has held steady at 66% over the past year, after rising 30 percentage points between 2005 and 2018. The latest results are based on Gallup's annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 1-13. Not only have 66% favored legalizing marijuana in the 2018 and 2019 Crime polls, but the same level of support was found in an intervening Gallup survey, conducted in May.
Gallup first asked about making marijuana use legal in 1969, when just 12% of Americans favored the proposal. Nearly a decade later, a 1977 survey found support had increased to 28%, but it held at about that level through 1995, finally surpassing 30% in Gallup's next measurement, in 2000. Since then, the percentage of Americans advocating legal marijuana usage has more than doubled, with support increasing significantly among all major subgroups.
As public opinion has become increasingly pro-marijuana, so has state policy. As of June, 11 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-two other states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Majorities of most key subgroups now favor making marijuana legal, according to an analysis of the opinions of more than 3,500 adults asked the question in the three 2018-2019 Gallup surveys. There are essentially no meaningful differences in support for legal marijuana by gender, education, income, region and urban/suburban/rural residence -- between 60% and 70% of subgroup members within those categories favor legalization. Opinions do vary significantly according to partisanship and ideology, age and generation, race, and religiosity.
Americans on the left of the political spectrum are more likely than those on the right to favor making marijuana legal. However, the differences are greater by political ideology than by partisanship. Twenty-five points separate Democratic (76%) and Republican (51%) support for making marijuana legal, with independents (68%) near the national average.
In contrast, 82% of liberals versus 48% of conservatives want to see marijuana made legal, a 34-point difference. Conservatives are one of the few major subgroups expressing less-than-majority support for making marijuana legal. Moderates' opinions (72%) are closer to those of liberals than conservatives.
Generally speaking, younger adults are much more likely than older adults to favor legalizing marijuana. This includes 81% of adults under age 30 as well as 80% of the larger millennial generation subgroup, consisting of those born between 1980 and 2000. By contrast, less than half of senior citizens (49%) are in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, and the percentage is even lower -- 40% -- among adults born in 1945 or before. Baby boomers and members of Generation X are close to the national average in terms of wanting marijuana to be made legal, at 61% and 63%, respectively.
Majorities of major U.S. racial and ethnic subgroups endorse the legalization of marijuana, but blacks are more likely to hold this view than whites, while Hispanics show even less support. Americans who attend religious services on a weekly basis are among the subgroups least likely to say marijuana should be made legal, with just 42% in favor. That compares with more than three-quarters of those who seldom or never attend church (77%) and 63% of those who attend occasionally.
Americans have rapidly shifted to backing legal marijuana in the past decade after consistently expressing opposition for 40 years. It appears the increases in support have halted for the time being, with no change in the percentage favoring legalization over the past year. However, given generational differences in support for legalizing marijuana use, it is likely the percentage who endorse making marijuana use legal will continue to expand in the years ahead.
Even if support has leveled off for the time being, it remains solidly above the majority level, and has created a public opinion environment that is conducive to more states adopting pro-marijuana policies. Although most states now allow marijuana usage for medical if not recreational purposes, the drug remains illegal according to federal law.