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

    Maybe we are getting tired of the war on drugs?

    January 7, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  2. cassarit

    Legalizing pot should take care of any organized resistance to the government.

    January 7, 2014 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  3. janarodriquez

    I wonder when big pharma, alcohol, and big tobacco will lend their support to the opposition on legal marijuana along with law enforcement and private prisons. All you have to do is follow the money and ask who in this country is going to be loosing out and it will be those people you will see opposing marijuana.

    January 7, 2014 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  4. Jeff D.

    How is this news now? I mean, can people honestly still think marijuana is more harmful than alcohol? Just look at ER rooms after midnight, tell me how many people need immediate care at a hospital from pot related incidents? And then compare that number to those related to alcohol. And that is not even talking about side effects, of which alcohol is scientifically proven to be WAY worse.

    Marijuana should have been legal 10 years ago, with a big taxation on it, which would of at least lessened the horrible blow to our economy from the Great Recession.

    January 7, 2014 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  5. Jake

    So... It seems that there might not be as much interest as reported concerning 'legalization or not'. Judging by the vast amount of comments here...

    January 7, 2014 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  6. mentalRay

    Legalize it- Don't criticize it

    January 7, 2014 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  7. janessa rodriguez

    I think no pot should not be legal it is bad for you and your lungs and it is bad for people around you I would not want to be around someone who smokes pot because I do not want to smell like that near my friends and family they might think I smoke pot and I do not want that. So my answer is no.

    January 7, 2014 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  8. The truth hurts

    I keep hearing people talking about if Marijuana is legal that their kids will be trying it. These people might want to take their blinders off legal or not if you kid wants to smoke he or she will and can get it. Also parents your kids can get prescriptions at their local school. You might want to check your medicine cabinet.

    January 7, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  9. Edutron

    Great. All cities in Colorado legal to sell dope will no longer have a credible jury for convictions unless potential jurors submit to a blood test. It's a free for all, get in on the crime, because there will be no time! Simple defense, no straight minded jurors!

    January 7, 2014 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  10. kate

    I'm 54 and I say legalize it. Get on with it already.

    January 7, 2014 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  11. Solitairedog

    Of course pot should be legal. The prohibition is a vestigial remnant of one of the most repressive, oppressive, and depressive eras in this country. It should be over by now and the fact that those archaic laws aren't gone is a disgrace to the Constitution and politicians in this country.

    January 7, 2014 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  12. bspurloc

    all the teens from 1987 are now voting adults and the old nay Sayers from 1987 are dead....

    January 7, 2014 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  13. Enea

    Would love to see if there is any correlation between the level of education of those who are opposed and those for. The south doesnt have the best reputation when it comes to education. The south/Senior Citizens are not educated enough and therefore still buy into the whole "Reefer Madness"

    January 7, 2014 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  14. GOLLYWINKIES

    Abe Lincoln acknowledged smoking it. What kind of logic is behind punishing people for doing it? Teach them a lesson? What lesson... that feeling giddy is somehow so 'wrong' that we should imprison people, separating them from their families? Maybe people who support insanely unfair punishment should be in prison or meet a special place in the hereafter where they have to think about their cold punitive hearts.

    January 7, 2014 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  15. Loathstheright

    Most people with IQ's over roomtemp understand that the government has been telling lies about marijuana....it is not what they have been spewing with their propaganda. it is a natural herb that has been used for thousands of years.

    January 7, 2014 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  16. Dan Beam

    I think americans are finally starting to realize there are real medicinal properties in Marijuana that really help for a lot of different issues, and the fact that it can really help bring in taxes and reduce our debt

    January 7, 2014 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  17. Alan

    It is funny that a lot of these people who rally to get pot legalized are the same ones who railed against cigarettes. Who do you think is going to grow this stuff on a large scale basis? The same people who grow tobacco. You know what? I say go ahead and smoke if you want to. Grow it tax it and the illegal pot trade will vanish over night. The South American drug cartels will be the least happy but who cares!! Then we can clear out the jails and make room for the hard core criminals. I am conservative I have never smoked pot or taken illegal drugs but everyone can see the war on drugs has failed in every way. Making pot illegal has made it worse not better and I would kindly remind people that applies to trying to outlaw other things as well.

    January 7, 2014 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  18. nadia

    I think pot should not be made legal. I think it is a disgusting habit. Yes some that is veryyyyyyy few might have a medical need but 99 % of the users are using it to get a high .

    January 7, 2014 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  19. Miles Monroe

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

    What a surprise; the same ones who also oppose reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, universal healthcare, immigration reform, protecting voter rights, environmental protection, etc, etc ...

    January 7, 2014 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  20. Independent

    GOP won't raise revenue from their wealthy "donors", got to get it from somewhere.

    January 7, 2014 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  21. Mollie H.

    Hops (in Beer) is the only other plant in the Marijuana Family
    and has much the same effect,
    so all you people who drink alcoholic flammable solvents
    should understand that a nice relaxing beer is thanks to Hops.
    Getting "Hopped up" is a phrase that comes from this.

    so .... think past the partial truths that the fear mongers provide.
    You have been enjoying the effects for generations already.

    Liberty is about minding your own business.
    You Liberty ends ONLY where your neighbors toes begin.

    January 7, 2014 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  22. breed7

    I don't understand why conservatives have a problem with marijuana. Aren't Republicans in favor of less governmental interference in peoples' lives? Or are they just as hypocritical about this issue as they are about religion and healthcare?

    January 7, 2014 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  23. jon

    Oh, just people live their lives as they wish for god's sake. This country is really stupid.

    January 7, 2014 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  24. MJ

    75,000 people died in 2013 for alcohol related deaths, cigarettes contain over 7,000 poisons and caused almost 500,000 deaths. Cannabis is a Vegetable, Not 1 person has over dosed or died from marijuana. It has proven to help stop, or dramatically reduce seizures in epilepsy patients and many other disease including cancer.
    Harry Anslinger is the reason pot has the stigma it has today, Harry needed funding for the FBI in the 20's-30's, to get the funding he needed he started the prohibition against Cannabis..

    Hemp oil can also be used to fuel cars, eliminating the need for oversea oil, This is why the people who rule our country do hot want to legalize Cannabis at a federal level, Think of all the money they will lose if the people of America became self sufficient. and stopped needing oversea oil and medication from the big Pharma companies, THink about it, we have all been fed lies

    January 7, 2014 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  25. Imminent

    Most people are just tired of talking about this. It's not an important topic. It won't save lives (if everyone is allowed to use it.) It won't do anything except make it cheaper to buy, easier to use, and cut some money out from under a couple pharmaceutical companies. But it's NOT an urgent important nation wide issue. So why keep wasting your breathe posting articles that read more like complaints and whining?

    January 7, 2014 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
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