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. Nate

    "...with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southernors the only major demographic groups who still oppose..."

    What a great group to be a part of. Can we stop letting these people legislate everyone else's morality? Drug prohibition has been an eight-decade failure that has wasted resources, imparted tremendous social cost, and all for what? More people using drugs? The complete and utter opposite of it's only goal. Let's try something different, please?

    January 6, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  2. Marcus

    I am actually shocked it isn't higher. First, people who chose to use a substance to relax with or medicate with which hard far less harms that the already legal substances (which should remain legal) we are still arresting. The laws of marijuana prohibition have been lopsided in that blacks and poor are far more likely to be arrested.

    I believe if people actually knew WHY cannabis was made illegal in the first place... it would have never been illegal for 70 years... time to right our wrongs. Legalize and vote politicians who are against and ignorant to stand up to change ignorant laws.

    January 6, 2014 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  3. Steven

    It's about friggin time! Seriously, all drugs should be legal (but regulated). Time for us to end the criminal drug cartels monopoly on drugs, and thus end the violence and empty more than half the prison beds in the US. In Holland, drug use actually went down after it was legalized. Why you say? Probably because (1) once its legal, it's suddenly not as cool anymore, (2) Everyone tries it and realizes, this is kind of stupid. It pretty much becomes like drinking – moderation is the key if you use at all.

    January 6, 2014 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  4. EarthWorm

    We just thought that cigarette smoking was bad...wait about 10 years from now and half the population of the US will be high as a kite. Cigarette smoking is not nearly as bad as dope is in the long run. However this poll doesnt surprise me because America is gone as a great country. We are only making it off of huge, huge debts but that will end one day. Our days are numbered and they should be. Any country that WANTS pot should lose its freedom and become a North Korea.

    January 6, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  5. Phil

    It is wrong that this drug is being legalized. Medicinal is one reason but for no other. It is addictive and dangerous in the hands of those who are addicted to it. What happens when someone drives under the influence of Alcohol ? The same but faster for those under the influence of this drug. It is wrong that our Court system and Justice system says OK.

    January 6, 2014 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  6. Raymond McCombs

    Hopefully with the recent Colorado legalization, more Americans of all ages will at least open their mind to the possibility there is more to cannabis than what d.a.r.e and scruff mcgruff taught them. I am all for one's right to his or her opinion, but you can't ignore and reject the medical needs of others because of your own personal feelings. I am only 23 and have already had my life affected by the war on drugs, because of a felony marijuana possession charge I can barely make it by working odd jobs because so few will hire "druggies" in the south. The social stigma is slowly changing, and with more articles like this, and Mr. Guptas documentary, we may have a chance to really make a change in the way we treat and view those who use marijuana, both medically and recreationally. Just my two cents.

    January 6, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  7. erichx101x

    It sure will be nice when all the hype wears off and legal marijuana becomes a normal part of everyday life. The media could back off a bit too.

    January 6, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  8. Kevin White

    Although some states will follow CO and WA, there are many states that NEVER will. Nor will the Federal Government ever move to legalize.

    I recently tried marijuana for the first time in many years. It was outstanding. I mainly listened to classical music and a little progressive rock on my audiophile sound system after smoking three little pea-sized bits of it in a pipe. A little paranoia, some weirdness with the motor skills, but Mahler was *breathtaking.*

    I've never been a huge drinker, but since my experience, I haven't had the desire to partake of craft beer or wine. Alcohol is just such a pitiful substitute and I've realized it doesn't really do anything for me. I would like to partake of some marijuana once every month or so on a quiet weekend.

    January 6, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  9. stephen48739

    I am looking forward to the day, when I can grow marijuana, in Michigan, for my own use, without fear of prosecution. I'm at an age, where I don't really care if friends and neighbors know I support ending the prohibition of marijuana. I've joined NORML.

    January 6, 2014 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  10. Jakinak

    As long as we don't pretend that there is no downside to legalization..

    January 6, 2014 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  11. Lucas Nosko

    I want to first point out that I'm pretty sure somewhere in BIBLE it says GOD put all things on this earth for man.... correct me if I'm wrong... there are wild plants, fungi and other substances on this earth that give u a buzz or alter your mind but they are not band or illegal. Yet new drugs come out every day that man makes by altering the chemical structure. FDA says ya these are acceptable, so society trust that then two years or five down the road, you see on tv "if you or a loved one has taken or been killed by this drug you may be entitled to some money since we made a mistake..." My Point is this I trust GOD's all natural 100% drug and not what I'm told I'm allowed to have..our gov obviously does not have our best interest at heart anymore...

    January 6, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  12. Sashatree

    Legalize it.....nationally. For recreational and medical use. Tax it. Erase the debt. Boost the economy exponentially. Handle it just like booze and cigarettes. It's long overdue!!! Common sense!! The ONLY reason it hasn't happened and isn't happening fast enough is the BIG PHARMA PAC'S and LOBBIES have donated MILLIONS TO BUY THE VOTES OF OUR OFFICIALS TO KEEP IT ILLEGAL SO THEY CAN KEEP PUSHING THEIR PILLS AND KEEP ANYONE FROM CUTTING INTO THEIR PROFITS!!! To hell with them!! Marijuana is a plant - a part of nature! No man-made evil chemicals.

    January 6, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  13. Eduardo Snowdini

    Better think fast DEA, or soon you'll be legislated out of the business of taking away our freedom.

    January 6, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  14. Thom Burke

    I'd like to see where the polling stands in a year. My guess is that the percentage in favor of legalizing is going to soar. But corrupt southern politicians will be the last hold-out. I'm sure they want to set things up so that they personally will benefit the most from legalization first. Yes Tallahassee, I'm talking about you.

    January 6, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  15. Ralph Petrillo

    First alcohol was made illegal, and organized crime made a fortune. Then the casino industry was controlled, and now it is all over the country.Marijuana should follow suit and get a national legalization plan immediately to raise tax revenues and to take away profit from organized crime. Follow up with regional drug treatment centers where drug addicts could get their medication without committing crimes. Watch crime fall dramatically. Taxes will come in, and people with addictions will get treatment without committing crimes.

    January 6, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  16. stephen

    iit absolutely should legal infact its safer for you then a mcdonalds cheeseburger and you drive more then 20 miles without seeing a mcdonalds and its proven fastfood is bad and undecided about pot so i just cant see the harm to be honest

    January 6, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  17. Cat

    Make it legal, stop making criminals out of smokers!!! What a waste of tax money to hunt down pot smokers and stick them in jail for smoking a joint. Spend the money hunting down murders and rapists.

    January 6, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. Mopery

    The arguments made against returning to legalization of marijuana(pre-1970) are no different than those made against alcohol legal again during Prohibition before its repeal. The similarities are striking, during Prohibition people were allowed to keep alcohol for "medicinal purposes" only, today more and more states are allowing marijuana for "medicinal purposes". When talk of ending Prohibition started, there were arguments about whether or not alcohol could be kept out of the hands of children, today those same tired arguments are being made against making marijuana legal again. Attempting to legislate morality is a fool's errand, it never works and harms far more people than would have been harmed otherwise. For all the demonizing of marijuana few of the talking heads on CNN, especially that vacuous bobblehead Nancy Grace, mention that nicotine is a poison and that alcohol is a neurotoxin. Idiot pundits who fake their righteous indignation at the thought of legalization aside, at least Sanjay Gupta has wizened up about the wonders of the herb superb.

    January 6, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  19. John Kaczmarowski

    Imagine that, Republicans, the party of personal freedom, free markets and a reduced role of the government in the private lives of its citizens is by and large against the personal freedom to use marijuana, the creation of a free market for the production, distribution and growth of marijuana and, by implication, supports the overly intrusive and expensive war on drugs waged by the federal government.

    January 6, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  20. TexDoc

    From a medical point of view, we should be researching and developing better recreational drugs. Alcohol is terrible. Nicotine is too addictive. Caffeine isn't too bad, easy to titrate. TCH is a good start. But big Pharma could do better.

    January 6, 2014 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  21. Cascade

    It doesn't make sense not to make pot legal.

    It's obvious for many reasons.

    January 6, 2014 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  22. Mike from TX

    As someone who considers himself conservative, the partisan idiocracy is mind boggling. We need a 3rd party desperately. Someone to represent those who want common sense. Who can look at all the pros and cons of legalization and say with a straight face "Yes its worth the cost of (attempted) enforcement, jail time for offenders, and revenue for cartels." Just like gay marriage. I personally am not gay so I don't necessarily understand it, but I don't believe the government should regulate if 2 consenting adults want to get married. There are no victims there...but, I digress. Why does the democratic party have to be wrong about every issue?? It's clear they have the much, much stronger argument on this issue. That apparently isn't good enough to persuade the opposition to just once say "you know what, your right on this one."

    January 6, 2014 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  23. Damian

    The hippies are taking over.

    January 6, 2014 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  24. Richard Miller

    It makes sound financial sense from many standpoints. And, it may just be an excellent source of revenue and jobs for cash strapped states. It is the new business module.

    January 6, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  25. Kerfluffle

    What in the blue blazes does morality have to do with Cannabis?

    Good grief, how did so many become so horribly mislead? Are these same individuals that swallowed the Government propaganda now excoriating the same government?

    The hilarity ensues...

    January 6, 2014 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21