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. Bill

    Yes, let us continue to ban marijuana, stay the course on the damned war on drugs, imprison every third colored person. After all, 40 years of this war and 10 years of alcohol prohibition has taught us nothing. And while we're at it, also ban coffee, tea, sugar, nicotine, coca cola, fizz, fudge, chocolate, shakes, burgers, beverages, chewing tobacco. They're all a lot worse than marijuana. Thank you Obama for the Change we can believe in, yeah right!!

    January 6, 2014 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  2. Bob from Accounting

    Alcohol is worse and after they lifted the prohibition on it organized crime lost a major source of funding.

    Not to mention that Nancy Grace is against it. What better sign do you need that it is good for America?

    January 6, 2014 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  3. Charlotte

    I see no downside in legalization. I am not a user of marijuana, although the legal status of use is not a factor in my non-use. It just doesn't appeal to me. I like my wine! But as much as I have no interest in using it myself, I have observed over the years that far more harm has come from alcohol than ever has come from pot, in terms of behavior of users, addiction, DWI's, domestic violence, you name it. Legalization would pound a stake in the heart of a lot of drug mafia business, it would line the coffers of local, state and national tax revenues, would allow for standardization and quality control and quite possibly open up further avenues of medical use. Prohibition didn't work for alcohol and it has been imbecilically moronic for pot. Get over it, already. Legalize, regulate, standardize and tax.

    January 6, 2014 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  4. me

    - with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups-
    Thats ONE group, all repubs are senior citizens in the south

    January 6, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  5. mrmanhattan

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

    Mahatma Gandhi

    January 6, 2014 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  6. Cory Donath

    Cannabis deserves to be legalized. There are far more benefits than some are giving credit too. And if you prefer to not indulge, that is ok. But don't tell me its not ok to indulge in something if you are uneducated on the subject, or are trying to impose your personal beliefs upon me. The lazy, stereotypical "pothead" that doesn't better society is simply a myth. Those people, with more complex issues, are going to lose their jobs anyway. My medicine brings me peace inside, is natural, and motivates me to be a better person. I am in no way addicted, for I haven't consumed in over 2 years, but I still know deep down how much love this plant spreads.

    January 6, 2014 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  7. Elvis

    Smoking pot is stupid. The increasing percentage of people approving it's use just shows the decline of our standards. The increase in tattoos is also a sign of our decline.

    January 6, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  8. Charles Greenvald

    It will be legal sooner or later! Hopefully SOONER–also saw on TV Cuomo is doing a 360 and wants to legalize it for medicinal purposes.... Maybe he has seen the light to bail out NY from more debt-he will tax it to death like gasoline and make a fortune!!!

    January 6, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  9. Dennis Koch

    NO!!!! It is no different than driving drunk... It will still make idiots that drive with it in their systems kill or cause injury. Making this JUNK legal is the stupidest and most inhuman idea that or twisted government has come up with.

    January 6, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  10. Daniel

    Have you ever heard of some who has smoked weed going home and being abusive to there wife???? I haven't....NOW, ...Have you ever heard of someone drunk coming home and being abusive...YES!!!!!!!!!!!!....How many people are killed each days from drunk drivers...MANY ARE.....How many people are killed each year from someone driving while high????? ZERO..............

    I just goes to who you how stupid our society is and government.....Ban alcohol and legalize pot..

    January 6, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  11. Lando

    Legalize it and tax the hell out of it.

    January 6, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  12. Sam

    It doesn't matter what the people want, this is the United States. We have to wait until big corporations (our real government) want and benefit greatly before anything becomes law.

    January 6, 2014 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  13. Mike

    "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.

    So I guess in a few years we'll have close to 80 or 90 percent support, then!

    January 6, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  14. Dan Britten

    I have no problem with this, I just don't think it will be the economic "magic bullet" that many proponents have expected it to be. I also don't think you're going to see the high-end stuff in the stores. Also, bear in mind that dealers have their own lobby.

    January 6, 2014 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  15. sam

    Until corporations can benefit greatly from this nothing will happen. This is the United States remember

    January 6, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  16. dan

    don't care wether its legal or not gonna smoke it either way and even if it does become legal I'm still not gonna get it in shops and pay taxes for it

    January 6, 2014 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  17. Mr. Izz

    Several of the things people were supposedly polled about in this article are things that people shouldn't be asked in the first place.

    Is marijuana a gateway drug? People say "no", but shouldn't we have information about whether or not it truly is a gateway drug, or if it is addictive, etc.? Never mind, I guess we should just poll a tiny group of random people and ask them instead.

    January 6, 2014 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  18. Einstein

    Never underestimate the stupidity of the average American. Once it's shown that smoking marijuana causes lung cancer these dummies will get their just desserts. The average American's goal is to live in a drugged out stupor watching television

    January 6, 2014 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  19. Timothy

    I live in Colorado and I do not smoke pot, to be honest, it has been almost a week since it was made legal here, and there have been no incidents yet.

    January 6, 2014 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  20. gstlab3

    The most disturbing things about all of this is how it has been used to monopolize markets while abusing certain people and imprisoning them and lying to others for political reasons creating a fake anti marijuana industry including lying to students at all levels of education about this very usefull and important plant that sustains millions of people all over the world.

    January 6, 2014 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  21. Bob

    Easy to see the trend. As the old die off, acceptance moves toward unanimity. It'll be legal everywhere within a decade.

    January 6, 2014 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  22. nik green

    It looks as if Southerners, Republicans and senior citizens sadly support organized crime cartels.....

    January 6, 2014 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  23. islandivan

    No surprises when it comes to those against legalization, same ultra-conservatives that support NSA eavesdropping, the "Un-Patriotic Act", prosecution of Snowden, probably support creationism, and when it comes to Republicans in particular I am a registered Republican that has voted split ticket for many years and for good reason due to blatant party support for the upper financial eschelion of our country in the false belief that if the rich get richer so will the rest, modern economic theory has proven that support to be flatly wrong. The war on pot is a waste and drain on resources that could be better suited toward intervention and interdiction of much more dangerous substances and could be a financial resource for law enforcement of harsher crimes and use of harsher substances.

    January 7, 2014 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  24. Richard Cox

    The number of people who have gone to prison because they sold or used "grass" says much more about why attitudes have changed. I am over 70 and I have never used grass but it is wrong to send people to prison when drinking is legal.

    January 7, 2014 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  25. Scott

    They might as well legalize it. If we've got to put up with the horrors of the Obama regime, we might as well smoke away our sorrows.

    January 7, 2014 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
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