CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring
January 6th, 2014
08:00 PM ET
9 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. KS

    I am happy to see that the prosecution/persecution of Americans for using marijuana is coming to an end. The war on drugs ruined more lives than marijuana ever has. The money wasted chasing nonviolent offenders is just baffling. I've always loved my country, but now I can begin to be proud of it again.

    January 6, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  2. Mark

    A big part of the reason for the turnaround is that once again Hollywood has decided for everyone that something they enjoy needs to be drilled into everyones head as being great for us all. Fornication, single parenting, career women while hired nanny raised the kids, divorce because mommy and daddy are bored with each other, homosexuality, smoking, teenage sex, exploitation of children and of course now why not convince a whole generation of youth that going through life high is one of the finest things a person can do.
    I have no doubt that like the other examples I've mentioned it will eventually be shown that smoking pot is extremely harmful. Already it's shown that pot exacerbates any genetic predisposition to mental issues.

    Once again we're chipping away at society and ensuring the next generation will be even more screwed up then the one before. We've got a 50% divorce rate with half the nation on antidepressants and Ritalin and every few weeks some 12 year old walks into a school and starts blowing people away.

    I'm not saying pot shouldn't be legal. I'm just saying it would be nice if everyone saw what I see. That your kids are being indoctrinated by people who have no clue whatsoever how to live right and be happy!

    January 6, 2014 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  3. Crosswinds

    Another symptom of this generations rejection of God........

    1 Samuel 8:7
    And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

    January 6, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  4. Nodack

    Even if you don't like pot you have to admit trying to stop people from using it has caused a lot more damage than it has helped.

    January 6, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  5. tdeis

    It's no surprise there has been a reduction in morality across the country considering the immoral leadership in government. You're all missing the point though, smoking dumb weed isn't immoral it's irresponsible.

    Drugs are for losers, aka Dumb Weed Dummies, aka DWD's

    "Live Responsibly" "Don't Do Drugs"

    Dateline Colorado: Today a DWD was arrested for DWD. "Dumb Weed Dummy arrested for Driving While Dumb"

    January 6, 2014 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  6. Sasha

    I'm in Denver,CO, I understand why people use it as medicinal medicine, instead of hard pill narcotics. Yet
    I've also seen first hand how people get "too zoned and relaxed", losing concentration in a simple conversation or being asked a question. Then they go driving......

    January 6, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  7. Gary Douglas

    Didn't need to take a national poll to learn this result, just look at the results of the votes in the two states that have put it on the ballot. Washington state and Colorado are signs of what's to come in every other state.

    January 6, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  8. Syd

    The other 45% were too high to respond. Legalize it everywhere now.

    January 6, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  9. Jez

    Well, now that the nay-saying republicant's are seeing the $$ to be made on the sale of MJ, of course they are all switching sides, as per usual.

    January 6, 2014 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  10. Mike Trainor

    Who missed the chance to name this article, "CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana at all time "high""

    January 6, 2014 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  11. DW Duke

    I cannot believe we are still discussing this. I wish someone in the White House would wake up and get rid of this issue. We look like a nation of deer in the headlight imps. :)

    January 6, 2014 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  12. susan fox

    Whether its Medicinal or Recreational use of Marijuana it will exist in U.S..The war on drugs cannot be won.History speaks for itself.Legalization would not devestate the Nation nor a Generation so I believe its time we accept it as we have alcohol in the past. ~58 yrs. Old in Missouri~

    January 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  13. SpeakTruth

    THIS ISN'T A SURPRISE. HELLO!

    Marijuana is NOT morally wrong, just like alcohol isn't!

    Marijuana is NOT a gateway drug, it is the 3rd most used substance behind alcohol and nicotine, so why aren't there millions more hardcore drug addicts?

    Marijuana is NOT physically addictive! This is well known, but it is just as mentally addictive as junk food! Do we ban Oreos now too?

    Marijuana's OLD POLICY ruined countless lives, wasted countless dollars, now we have the chance to turn one of the greatest injustices of modern time into one of the largest profitable industries for the United States.

    THIS IS A NO BRAINIER. NO WONDER IT IS ONLY BABY BOOMERS AND DEEP SOUTH REPUBLICANS, WHO THINK THAT GAY IS THE SAME AS BESTIALITY, WHO OPPOSE LEGALIZATION! ARE WE REALLY GOING TO LET THOSE PEOPLE CONTINUE TO DECIDE OUR SOCIAL ISSUES? I'VE HAD ENOUGH!!!!!

    January 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  14. Marco

    And yet again, the red states and GOP supporters are on the wrong side of the situation. The GOP should be renamed "The Party that stops progress".

    January 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  15. tim

    And thats why the "old" republicans have to go. i live in south, pushing 50, and vote republican. as do MANY socalled "potheads"Maybe if they payed more attention to the changing of the times, and embraced us(and we are many), we wouldnt have the president we have now...just sayin

    January 6, 2014 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  16. Truth_is_Truth

    This is a silly poll. We can't decide something like legalizing pot that has far reaching impact with a public poll.

    That's almost like taking a poll to see if the majority agrees with drunk driving. It doesn't matter what the public thinks, some thinks are inherently dangerous and as a society we have to make decisions that are for the greater good.

    January 6, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  17. John Doehn

    Don't like it? Don't do it. No one cares that you hate your life.

    January 6, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  18. Jeff

    This has only being considered, because of all the taxes that will be collected on its sale. Otherwise for health and social reasons, it is one stupid idea, but the idiocy will be ignored for payment of dollars to the state or fed.

    January 6, 2014 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  19. Dustin

    Anybody that says Weed shouldn't be legal, I hope you're a saint! Because you're probably someone who has abused alcohol, a maybe violent person, or whatever. Noone is perfect on earth. So alcohol is perfectly legal, but it kills people by the thousands every year... Same with cigarets.. So why something that has medical benefits, be frowned upon... Because you don't do it? Well, that isnt a valid point to me... So anybody that says no, is just an idiot.

    January 6, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  20. dexcan

    now they just have to make it cheaper to choke out the street dealers and growers

    January 6, 2014 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  21. Asheville Chic

    "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."

    That last generation are the ones that bought the Gov't propaganda. The times they are a changin'!!!

    January 6, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  22. popeye1128

    Ban alcohol, legalize pot nationwide. Weed (sic) be better off. Fewer domestic abuse cases also.

    January 6, 2014 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  23. Steve

    Morally wrong? I guess it's morally ok to get slobbering drunk and drive your car.

    January 6, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  24. steve

    so now person can get high on weed while attending a gay marriage and there is nothing the oppressive GOP an do about it.. America is getting close to the founding fathers idea

    January 6, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  25. Larry

    I am a Southerner, Republican and a senior citizen and I say legalize it now!!!!

    January 6, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
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