CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring
January 6th, 2014
08:00 PM ET
8 months ago

CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring

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

soundoff (503 Responses)
  1. Ed

    Fred Flynt- I see because marijuana helps cure cancer. You don't need to smoke it. Legalizing it will allow people easier access to use healthier alternative ways to getting the medicine in.

    January 7, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  2. Fred Phred

    Oh it's not addictive.. just ask the hundreds of people posting here that they want it legalized at any cost. Desperate in fact because they need their fix and want to do it legally.

    You can hear them trying to talk themselves into it. "oh it's healthy. It's in nature! Nobody gets hurt by it!"

    January 7, 2014 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. karlotious

    Wow Joe how often do you allow your kids to drive drunk? Great parenting. Everyone ahs this stupid idea that everyone will be showing up to work high and driving under the influence. Just because its now illegal doesnt change the fact that millions upon millions were already doing it. If anything pot sold at a state store will be just as hard for children to obtain as alcohol considering currently dealers typically dont ask for an id. Grow up

    January 7, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  4. Fair is Fair

    Legalize it... and tax it HEAVILY.

    January 7, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  5. mikebo1959

    Everyone we need to get rid of everything that may harm us.What meds ads you see on tv.If it doesn't kill you it may be good for you.When i was young the medicine cabinet was your first dealer.

    January 7, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  6. jay

    they should let this happen in texas

    January 7, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  7. Bill

    Because everyone knows that the most moral thing to do is put people in cages that have this plant in their possession.

    January 7, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  8. ralph

    "with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot"

    They oppose the legal use of pot, because they oppose everything.

    January 7, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  9. Malory Archer

    Fred Flynt

    So will there be a large lawsuit in a few years over the cancer that is caused by smoking pot? On the one hand we try to stamp out cigarettes but now we provide another type of tobacco. Is hemp non-cancer causing? Will smoking pot be considered the same as smoking.

    Not promoting one direction or the other just some thoughts for the future.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Cannibis has been shown to shrink cancerous tumors. Additionally, cigarette smokers who don't use cannibis have a higher incidence of lung cancer than cigarette smokers who also use cannibis – and cannibis user who don't use tobacco products have a lower incidence of lung cancer than both of the former groups.

    January 7, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  10. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Dominican mama 4 Obama
    Oh for Pete's sakes legalize it and boost business in all local 7-11's, bodegas, Taco Bells, McD's, and the bean pie seller on the corner of 125th and Amsterdam!
    ----------------------------------
    Amen!!!

    January 7, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. EncinoMan

    I am astounded by how fast support has grown for marijuana. From 43% two years ago to 58% (gallup) today! The same thing happened with acceptance of homosexuality. Within ten years opposition to gay rights went from 58% to 44%! Never in history has society changed so quickly on the issues of social mores (taboos). If I had to guess, I would say these astonishing growths in support are due to the technological advances and access to the internet. Information is shared instantly now. With the click of a button, a person can learn that all those horrible nasty things the government said about marijuana was false. You can see the statistics and hear the arguments at record speed. What used to take a century to change now takes a decade or less. Connectivity is responsible for the revolutions of American thinking. I am excited to see burgeoning rights come so quickly but wonder if the same process could take place in reverse. Could America reverse their thinking on homosexuality at this point? On drugs? Can you reverse progress? Here's to hoping not...

    January 7, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  12. rob

    oh what a great future for the US, look inwards angel!

    let the Chinese and other repressive nations dominate economy and global issues and, eventually, military power.

    in the US gender issues, recreational drugs, political correctness and foodstamps for everyone are the most important topics for the decades to come...

    January 7, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  13. kim

    amazing that we are still filling jails and ruining lives for poessesion of a little weed, but let l drunk drivers get back on the road right after arrested to go kill someone. Yet buying alcohol is legal.

    January 7, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  14. EncinoMan

    Fred Flynt – there have been studies that show that marijuana can actually help to prevent lung cancer. Marijuana smoke can be harmful and kill cells, however, the cells it targets in the lungs are chaotic cells. Chaotic cells are the cells most likely to become cancer. Smoking marijuana could literally lessen your chances of lung cancer. There has also been studies that show marijuana has cancer killing properties in other areas of the body, including the skin and the brain. There is evidence to suggest that marijuana makes brain cancer feed on itself (I guess it gives cancer the munchies). Everything I have said can be substantiated in a number of articles. I suggest we all do our own research so that we can all be enlightened and view the issue of marijuana through the spectrum of truth and not government propaganda and lies.

    January 7, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  15. Freedom Ain't Free

    The states spend $6 Billion every year enforcing the prohibition of marijuana.

    Why waste all of this money on a victimless crime?

    Why not use this money to build roads bridges and schools instead?

    January 7, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Lynda/Minnesota

    Put me on record for stating I am against legalizing it. Put me on record of also stating that I've seen one brother and a good childhood friend both begin their long and grueling drug infested years first starting out using marijuana. Count me also as a cigarette smoker who wished she'd never touched nicotine at an early age ... but did.
    ------------------------------–
    Understood. But, I think the main argument about marijuana being a 'gateway drug' is based upon the assumption that you would obtain marijuana through the same, or similar, channels as you would the harder, man-made drugs.

    January 7, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  17. nepawoods

    Unfortunately, too many people, when asked the question "Should marijuana be legal?", think the question is "Should people be smoking marijuana?". They're not the same question at all.

    January 7, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  18. What a joke

    Ha, ha, what a joke. There was always huge support for cannabis, but the state-run media has been telling people lies.

    US Government are HYPOCRITES, because while they arrest people for medical marijuana,
    they also HOLD A PATENT for medical marijuana – patent #6630507 SOURCE: uspto

    US Health Dept. says cannabis is effective neuro-protectant AND antioxidant.
    Who doesn't need neuroprotection? And, who doesn't need antioxidation?

    We need cannabis simply to protect us from the GM food being deceptively forced upon us without package labeling.

    This is just more abuse of taxpayers (who voted for med marijuana).

    Make government (politicians) obey voters and OUR laws.

    FACT:
    10th Amendment clearly says Fed has no power. In fact, its opposite, the People and States have and hold ALL the power. Further, every state constitution clearly says all power comes from, or is derived from, or is vested in, the People.

    Government is a servant, the People are its master.

    If the People say CANNABIS should be legal, then its legal and the owners of this country have spoken.

    January 7, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. Sniffit

    "CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring"

    CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana reaches new high.

    FIFY

    "So will there be a large lawsuit in a few years over the cancer that is caused by smoking pot?"

    Funny thing about pot versus tobacco: eating it is a viable option.

    "Then cry me a river when your kids are killed in an auto accident because they were high."

    Right. Because making it illegal is what means it will never happen. I've got MADD on the other line...they'd like to speak with you.

    January 7, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  20. Ray

    "So, you call 1,010 people out of 60 billion and YOU make the determination that its alright to legalize drugs, What if by chance you just happen to get hold of 1000 people who love pot? what if the other 60 billion don't think its alright, when you do a poll do it right, Put it on your site and let the people vote on it without any tampering from CNN."

    Wow, someone didn't take stats in college. Not to mention there are only ~330 million Americans, not the 60 billion you quoted (there's not even that many people in the WORLD). It's interesting how most of the negative posts on marijuana are made by people who clearly don't have a clue as to what they're talking about. Shameful

    January 7, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  21. bob

    Mexican drug war kills 20,000. sounds terrible? more died in alcohol fueled car wrecks. More died from smoking regular cigarettes last month.

    January 7, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  22. Fair is Fair

    Lynda/Minnesota

    Put me on record for stating I am against legalizing it. Put me on record of also stating that I've seen one brother and a good childhood friend both begin their long and grueling drug infested years first starting out using marijuana.
    -------
    My oldest brother died – at age 38 – from acute alcoholism. The point is that there is little, if anything, on this planet that overuse of is beneficial. Everything in moderation.

    January 7, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  23. Brion Eduardo

    People who live in ballot-initiative states will be able to enjoy legal cannabis in 2 or 3 years. However, those of us who live in legislature-controlled states such as Kansas will have to wait for Big Pharma and the police unions to run out of bribe money. That could take a while.

    I originally posted this same comment Dec. 6 at about 9:00 pm, but apparently the night-shift moderator thought it was too controversial. Hopefully the day-shift moderator is less inclined toward censorship.

    January 7, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  24. BossIlluminati

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING!!!13

    "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,....hahahahaha, freedom denying fools...

    AMERICA'S WAR ON DRUGS IS A WAR ON AMERICANS!!!33

    January 7, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Sorry to hear about your brother and friend's descent into addiction. Did they also drink alcohol I wonder. I would venture to say that if they were cocaine users they were also heavy drinkers.
    I have some pothead friends, on the other hand, that never ventured beyond pot after decades of smoking weed. Addictive personalities are hard to gage. Some can brake away, some stay put and others escalate looking for the bigger high, or more often than not that which would help them numb up and escape whatever they are running from or carrying inside.
    I smoked cigarrettes for over 32 years Lynda. I quit via hypnosis. I am as surprised as anyone as I talked a lot of smack about hypnosis and it's effect. I would urge you to give it a go. I have been smoke-free for over 3 years and can be around smokers without ever feeling the urge to light up.

    January 7, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
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