CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring
January 6th, 2014
08:00 PM ET
10 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. Jerry Schull

    Legalize, regulate quality and distribution and tax commercially produced and sold POT.

    January 6, 2014 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  2. Lars

    The 55% is BS. It's regional polling not national. In the Midwest, south and much of the east coast especially the southeast support for rec is well below 50%. Taxed and regulated pot can never compete with black market, and over time rec prices will rise not drop, only drops that will happen will be sale events and not the norm market value. Globally it stands no chance and being the US just signed an agreement with the UN to combat global legalization attempts it seems the feds are just allowing the very few states that would ever pass rec to fail on their own before they step in. Revenues will never meet expectations unless it is continually taxed, and being the majority of supporters only support it for revenues and not the right to get high revenues is thee number one issue within the states. The percentage of daily users in only 5%, occasional 15%. A tiny minority. Why this is even considered an important issue I will never know. Rec will not survive.

    January 6, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  3. Ken

    Wow, 1000 is SUCH a large poll. Dont forget us baby boomers outnumber the drug supporters...

    January 6, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  4. Mike Hambuchen

    Real headline: Future of America in doubt

    January 6, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  5. tbone

    The problem is all the druggies from the 70's and 80's are now in office and power.

    Everyone I know thinks it is immoral to smoke dope.

    January 6, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  6. Snowshift

    Unfortunately for America a successful democracy also depends on informed voters. When 45% of Americans believe in ghosts, and when 31% of Americans believe in astrology, and when the majority of kids don't know bacon comes from pigs ... you get what you deserve ... ignorant know-nothing decisions.

    January 6, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  7. Chaz

    Legalizing marijuana would be the BEST thing to do. You know how many people have records/felonies over just POT? who previously never commited any other crime? What if you sell pot in Local stores but had to be of the age of 21 or older? Would get alot of these drug dealers out of business and off the streets.

    January 6, 2014 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. Thomas E

    Americans have come to the evolutional conclusion that no one can tell another human being what they can do with their own bodies. It seems as if evolutionary speaking people have "woken up" and no longer repond to fear mongering and misinformation the way they used to. Americans sense the hypocrisy in dying to spread "freedom" around the world, all the while destroying theirs at home. The whole war on drugs is bound to fail because it's based on a false premise of controling someones body and mind. Alternative consciousness or otherwise.

    January 6, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  9. Cindy Anderson

    Im still concerned about people in recovery. If pot's not physically addictive, it is mentally, in my opinion.

    January 6, 2014 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. Nick

    Better buy stock in White Castle.

    January 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  11. Cyril Rayan

    Who are the people in this sample data for the research. Did anyone hear about the 37 deaths by overdose in Colorado? When was this survey taken CNN?

    January 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  12. Clean and Proud

    Well its official this country has gone to pot. Seriously in another few decades this country will resemble China when they were all hooked on opium. It will make it easier for those smart enough not to use drugs get ahead since the rest will be half asleep, but over time this country is headed for the sewer.

    January 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. Jim Weix

    The government knows that it can't enforce the drug laws; they learned that during the failed Prohibition period. Like during Prohibition, our drug laws have been the catalyst for organized crime.
    These drug gangs and the drug laws, create another type of organization: our law enforcement and prison business industry. There is too much money being made, and too many people being employed, for our government to give up their failed "War on Drugs". The whole drug enforcement scam is only about one thing: money.

    January 6, 2014 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  14. Searchingforthetruth

    The same people that supported Obama support legalized pot. Go figure.

    January 6, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  15. Ron

    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.

    January 6, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  16. T E X A S

    Lets see where we stand with Colorado's experience in a year.

    January 6, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  17. Brion Eduardo

    The fact that a solid majority of Americans support legalization is encouraging, and the citizens of the ballot-initiative states can look forward to legal sales within 2 or 3 years. However, those of us who live in legislature-controlled states such as Kansas won't get our freedom until Big Pharma and the police unions run out of bribe money. That could take a while.

    January 6, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  18. The Dude

    So, it's the old Republicans who oppose legalization the most if I read this correctly. Most likely the same folks who voted for Richard Nixon.

    January 6, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  19. David

    No, this is wrong idea. And I don't think this is actual poll. Also I think this is a huge mistake to legalize marijuana, this defiantly going ruin the teenage life.

    January 6, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  20. nathan berg

    america's already lazy. what else do we have to lose?

    January 6, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  21. AVGPAGUY

    I always wonder, "who was called in this poll?" I am 55 years old, a Northerner and a Democrat, and I oppose this dumbing down of America. So... pot-heads can now just be another"normal" part of everyday society. This a very significant social experiment. It will be interesting to see how things pan out after the initial buzz wears off.

    January 6, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  22. opinionated

    the US citizens are very high on marijuana.

    I think a joint committee should get rolling on this.

    January 6, 2014 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  23. Michael Turner

    How can 59 % percent men and 51% women support? Those numbers must be a typo.

    January 6, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  24. Jim

    Ironically, most Americans want to make Obamacare illegal. So there.

    January 6, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  25. justin

    We will smoke legally or illegally it don't matter the major difference is who makes the money the united states or drug cartels

    January 6, 2014 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
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