Washington (CNN) - In a major turnaround from past decades, a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll.
The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicated that the number of people who say smoking pot is morally wrong has plunged.
Fifty-five percent of those questioned nationally said marijuana should be made legal, with 44% disagreeing.
The CNN/ORC findings are similar to a Gallup poll conducted in October.
According to the CNN poll and numbers from General Social Survey polling, support for legalizing marijuana has steadily soared over the past quarter century - from 16% in 1987 to 26% in 1996, 34% in 2002, and 43% two years ago.
The survey found interesting divides on the issue.
"There are big differences on age, region, party ID, and gender, with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Two-thirds of those 18 to 34 said marijuana should be legal, with 64% of those 34 to 49 in agreement.
Half of those 50 to 64 believe marijuana should be legal, but that number dropped to 39% for those age 65 and older.
Support stood at 60% in the Northeast, 58% in the West, 57% in the Midwest, but just 48% in the South. Sixty-two percent of Democrats and 59% of Independents, but just 36% of Republicans, backed legalizing marijuana. Fifty-nine percent of men but just 51% of women supported making pot legal.
Attitudes have dramatically changed
Why has support for legalizing marijuana tripled since the 1970s and 1980s?
"Attitudes toward the effects of marijuana and whether it is morally wrong to smoke pot have changed dramatically over time," said Holland. "That also means that marijuana use is just not all that important to Americans any longer."
In 1972, about a year after President Richard Nixon declared drugs "public enemy Number One," 65% said the use of marijuana was a very serious problem for the United States. Now that is down to 19%.
The number who said marijuana is a gateway drug (47%), is down 23 points since 1972. The number who said marijuana is addictive (50%), is down 10 points. And the number who said marijuana is physically harmful (43%) is down 23 points.
"Clearly there are some reservations about marijuana, but not the widespread fear that existed during the original War on Drugs in the 1970s," added Holland.
The biggest change indicated by the poll reflected the number of people who said smoking pot is morally wrong. In 1987, 70% said it was, making it a sin in the minds of more Americans than abortion or pornography.
Now, that number has been halved - just 35% today said smoking marijuana is morally wrong.
Widespread agreement that it is not morally wrong may be one of the bigger drivers of the pro-legalization movement.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, from January 3-5, with 1,010 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
More jobs for the rest of us.
I agree- get stoned. All you want.
Doubtful most Americans. But sure go ahead and legalize it. As a trade off.. Take away welfare for people who use it.
I wonder how much influence the liquor and beer business in keeping marijuana illegal?
Im from California. I Love weed.
Why I approve of legalizing marijuana: I'm sick of wacko cops targeting some teens (poor and middle class) and not others (rich) and thus creating criminal records for them that they can never expunge from their records. They end up behind the 8 ball before they even get out of high school.
In an Amazing turnaround most Americans can also now be characterized as incredibly stupid, uninformed sheeple, who care more about marijuana and the Kardashians as their government blows their inheritance on entitlements, unions, and keeping themselves in power.
An entire nation on drugs............and falling apart.
Baby Boomers are the generation of peace, love & rock-n-roll. (A time that included some good (& bad) weed & other drugs). Hell yah we're for legalizing it.
"A majority of Americans"? I don't think so. I'm sure a poll by Fox News would find otherwise. What you need is an impartial scientific survey to draw conclusions about what Americans feel, not polls by politically biased news outlets.
we are losing the generation that was subjected to government lies about the horrors of marijuana use. this isn't a surprise that our thinking evolves with more education on the subject
Why the changes in attitude? Reefer Madness was an absolute mistake. It showed the proponents of prohibition wouldbstoop to any level, any lie to keep the public against cannabis. Even resorting to racism in their efforts; many people don't know, but 'marijuana' became the popular name for the plant because it sounded Spanish.
Meanwhile, the public experimented with cannabis and grew fond of it. They learned on their own the government has been lying about this plant for over a century. 'Just Say No' gave way to "What is this illegal???"
No surprise here. As more Americans open their eyes to the benefits of medical marijuana they are seeing that the government has been lying to them about the dangers of pot for years. It's about time that something that has zero deaths attributed to it should be made available for those who want to responsibly partake of it.
It's time for the national government to legalize pot!
It's unusual to see US citizens support personal freedom in a poll. However, legalizing pot is the least of pour problems. After generations of voting for the War on Drugs and supporting ever greater police powers in order to arrest more people... the cops have authority and power that is incompatible with a free society. If you're going to legalize pot, we should repeal all the police powers that pot created.
smoking marijuana is morally wrong. But eating it is not.
Good. About time
It's way past time, should never have been labeled a class 1 drug.
Support for legalizing marijuana? not me. Spend a day in a primary care clinic taking care of neglected children whose parents smell like they've been rolling in weed and you'll change your mind in a hurry…I see this every day. Yes, I know the argument about booze, etc but why add to the problem of altered minds and carelessness?
Being a health care professional, marijuana should be legal. The fact that is illegal on some level everywhere in the US is rediculous. So much money is wasted on this relatively benign drug is a joke. The synthetic pot often causes seizures and should be illegal. This inane world the lawyers and politicians force us to live in! Land of the free... joke.
It is VERY interesting that as we grow older and wiser, we are less in favor of legalizing Pot...
Liberals always win. Always
USA USA!!!! Let's do it and tax the hell out of it!!
That's only because the majority of Americans are clueless morons.
today people no longer care about anything including their own life's or children's future. .Everyone I was growing up with who smoked pot are today mentally slow.. I feel bad when I see what they have become..
Lots of things are changing as the older generation dies off. Most people today just don't buy the whole "Reefer Madness" view of marijuana and they definitely do NOT think anybody should be incarcerated for years for possessing it.