CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring
January 6th, 2014
08:00 PM ET
8 years 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. GTA


    "you can go to a state buy it legally while the rest of the other 48..."

    Other 48? Perhaps you should lay off the weed for a little while.....

    January 7, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  2. Morton Leslie

    Steve said "Of course those over 65 don't want it. They have been brainwashed with reefer madness their whole lives." Uh Steve – I'm 68. I was in college through the 60's. We were the first ones laughing at Reefer Madness while puffing on a doobie. In general, the older we get the less we give a shit about what other people do.

    January 7, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  3. Doobiedoo

    Half the kids in our major cities don't bother to graduate from high school-this should help huh??"

    LOL, first kids shouldn't have access, 21 and up like alcohol, which is point number two, are you saying these kids don't have access to any other drug like alcohol? It's a matter of choice. If these dumbasses are throwing their life away that is their choice. I could have drank on many ocassions in HS and college and don't get me wrong I did sometime but most times I choose to study.

    January 7, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. RDH

    Nobody has a right to tell another person what they can and can't put in their own body. When it comes to drug laws there is no victim, and when there is no victim there is no crime. Even if drug use will lead to future criminal activity like theft to support the addiction you morally can not justify drug laws. Drug laws are primative and based mostly on false science. Its time to end prohibition.

    January 7, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. randy

    it should have been legalized a long time ago. all those in prison whose lives have been ruined should be freed, let the tobacco companies have it. they are set up to support the supply and demand!

    free the people, legalize MJ!!!!!!!!

    January 7, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. jfkjr


    I think it's terrible that a persons life is so miserable that they have to drug themselves..
    Typing im sure while cracking his legal beverage...itd only hurt big companies if they themselves didn't get a foot in the door while they can and anty up and buy their way into making a profit off this before a large foreign company comes in and makes huge profits instead

    January 7, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. Dan

    Make it legal here in Alabama. I want to start my own pot farm in my back yard!!!!!!!!

    January 7, 2014 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. danomite

    Anyone who thinks that pot isn't available to anyone who wants it is grossly misinformed.

    January 7, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  9. JJ

    It is apparent people simply want to get high. They cover it all up with "medical marijuana". We all know what you're doing with that. It's not fooling anyone. They become slumbering fools you can't really deal with at work. This is why I'll never hire someone who tests positive on a drug test, which are done quite regularly. I personally don't care if people want to destroy themselves. They can do so with alcohol, other drugs, or marijuana. One thing is for sure: They won't be working for me. There are enough people out there looking for employment, I'm sure I'll continue to be able to find people who want to work without being doped up pot-heads. I've known a number of pot-heads in my life, and they don't impress me at all, intellectually especially.

    January 7, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. ObamaCares!

    CBD NOT THC is medicinal!

    January 7, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. antodav

    One case in which the will of the people and what is legally and morally sensible and right actually happen to coincide.

    January 7, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. bill knye

    the people who want marijuana to stay illegal are the ones profitting the most from it. growers, dealers, etc. than of course there is those who are psychotic. take away a cash crop from the blackmarket, of course people are going to want it to stay illegal. thats money out of their pockets.

    January 7, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. vinny5782

    can I get all the money I paid in fines back when its finally legalized? also the cops took a few bowls and bags from me. Can I get them back too? We want Reparations!!!!

    January 7, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  14. GB

    so it's OK to smoke pot, but I have to look at commercials demonstrating the evils of cigarette smoke. How is cigarette smoking more harmful than smoking pot?? It seems hipocritical to tell people that cigarette smoking is going to kill you but pot smoking is fine!

    January 7, 2014 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. Derpy

    48 states because Colorado and later on this year, Washington state are the two who have voted to legalize it.

    January 7, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  16. James

    I think it's funny that the Republicans, party of freedom and personal responsibility are also the ones that overwhelmingly want to tell others what substances they can put in their body. Also the south, with some of the highest rates of alcohol and tobacco use are against legalization of marijuana.

    I've always considered pot to be in the same category as alcohol and tobacco. If anything it's less harmful and certainly less addictive than tobacco. Almost every tobacco smoker I know smokes several times a day. Even the most stereotypical "stoner" I've ever met goes longer than that between hits. Most pot smokers are the occasional puffers, just as most drinkers are not alcoholics.

    January 7, 2014 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda Minnesota
    So, something else we have in common our love of cigs and RA.
    Quite uncanny discovering a kindred spirit through this site I must tell you.
    Getting old does suck Lynda... somewhat. I have also found it to be quite liberating though: no make-up? No problem. Feel like wearing something a little odd? Who's looking at you anyways?! Wanna fuss somebody out? Go right ahead. Can't remember who you're talking to? Blame it on the menopause.
    I don't have grandchildren yet. I can wait for those until my sons find their soulmates, but listening to you talk about yours sure does make "my mouth water" for them!

    January 7, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. Alan8

    "Never prouder to be a Libertarian, the party that refused to ever buy into "the war on drugs" lies, the only national political party in the last election to call for Legalization..."

    BS; the Green Party has been calling for legalization for DECADES.

    "Libertarianism is just Fascism with a facelift. Scratch the surface of Libertarianism and you will find the notion that corporations should rule supreme, just as it was with Fascism."

    January 7, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. Frank Eggers

    Before making marijuana legal elsewhere, I think that it would be prudent to wait and see how it works out in Colorado.

    January 7, 2014 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    48 states because Colorado and later on this year, Washington state are the two who have voted to legalize it
    Check mate and puff, puff, pass!! LOL!

    January 7, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  21. lisa

    I feel that one day we will look back on this like we did on legalizing alcohol. Our granchildren will laugh at us.

    January 7, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  22. jfkjr

    Umm yea coming from a persons acronym that stands for Grand Theft Auto I don't need type out everything pc..politically correct if not sure what that stands for.this is a forum to share your thoughts and opinions not an English class.

    January 7, 2014 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  23. Bob

    It is great to see that a major portion of America is finally realizing all of the false information about MJ is just that, false. I thought everybody I knew understood that until I talked with a very close relative the other day.

    Somehow we got on the sujbect of CO legalizing and starting sell legal pot. She said "did you know that 17 people died the day they started selling it?"

    I responded "from what?"

    Her response: "I guess they smoked too much and died."

    Now I don't have any idea where she got that but that is just completely false. It's amazing the misinformation that is out there and still believed by people.

    One thing I have noticed is that the people that seem to be the most against it are the ones that know nothing about it and probably have never even seen it. That's probably what bothers me the most is people being so against something they know nothing about.

    January 7, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. Susan Archer

    Stop this insamity! Arsenic is a natural ingredient-should we use it! I have worked with students for 32 years and then with families in conflict whose children were dysfunctional and needy for the last 8 years. I have never seen anyone who uses pot able to walk away from it, in fact they need even more. If we are using it for medical reasons, that is different because it is a different type.
    "Recreational" pot use is to allow people to escape the world and not deal with solutions to problems.Toke up and tune out. Go toothless, confused, .
    See your complexion and hair go to "pot". Forget your children and their needs. And then crave even more escape with other drugs like cocaine and heroin. Drop out of work, go to shelters, or get SSI because of your drug abuse.
    I have seen all of this with my own eyes=I have dealt with the consequences of marijuana abuse because that is what it will grow into and then escalate from that point. Those who defend legalization -do you want your doctor on pot when he comes back from break and examines you? Look at the parents who drop out of parenting so they can get High?Can you honestly say you know people on pot who act normally? I am over 65 and make my claims from observable behavior, not "opinions" of others. Look at the behavior of people on pot who smoke to get high.

    January 7, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  25. Bob

    Susan Archer – "f we are using it for medical reasons, that is different because it is a different type."

    Sorry Susan but is the exact same thing.

    January 7, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
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