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. andrew

    Morally wrong? Says who? Give me a break. The pot 'moralist' are the biggest hypocrites in human history. They drink loads of liquor and take tons of mind-bending and addictive prescription pills. Who are they to judge? Everyone is sick of their snoopy moralistic judgments, and people are out-voting the hypocrites.

    January 6, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  2. anton bayer

    It seems to me that there are so many health benefits and a good source of fiber plus the cost savings of not prosecuting it and really I don't see what the cons are the ones I here seem way exaggerated from my experience. I still think a employer should be allowed to test for it if they so please and discharge but the must be the same rules for all employees I mean they could not fire one employee for a positive test and allow another a pass or second chance.

    January 6, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  3. Jake

    In the video with Nancy G. on a related story she is ranting about the possibility of high babysitters, pilots, Taxi drivers and just about any OTHER person she can think of....What makes her think that in any ONE of those situations, the person could just as easily be DRUNK! There are 'rules of conduct' with ANY recreational mood enhancing drug...(Yes Alcohol IS a DRUG) and it is up to society to set the limitations as needed and to enforce them.
    I would MUCH rather be at a party where the majority were 'high' and mellow or maybe just laughing at nothing than one with LOUD, SLOPPY, ABUSIVE DRUNKS! Just sayin...

    January 6, 2014 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  4. Pete

    It seems that if your going to legalize this drug you might as well legalize all of them and put all the drug dealers out of business.People who want these drugs cannot receive welfare or Ssi or any type of Unemployment.Pawn companys have to require reciepts with merchandise to be pawned and Ids and Fingerprints are required.There has to be better solution to all this madness.


    January 6, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  5. Michael

    When all of the States realize how much money is being made in taxes in Colorado etc, they will have no choice than to legalize. We are talking 100's of $Millions of dollars that our States all need. I have had my MM card for over 2 years in CA, and no one is killing each other over it. There are no people on the streets addicted and homeless because of it. Alcohol and tobacco are much more harmful and I predict by 2020 it will be legalized nationwide.

    January 6, 2014 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  6. fred hutchinson

    just think of the revenue it would provide the coffers if it was legalized across the nation the government would be able to pay down enormous amount of there debt in a couple of years and maybe relax the taxes on the middle income and it would likely employ a lot of people.hopefully Canada will also do the same.

    January 6, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  7. Let's Be clear

    "...senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot,"
    Really? Now why aren't we the least bit surprised by this? Thankfully, the South is becoming irrelevant, the seniors are dying, and the Republicans are quickly vanishing. Looks like recreational marijuana will be legal in this country eventually. What's not to love?

    January 6, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  8. NameCrystal

    It's no worse then drinking. It has the same side effects as drinking. Making it legal for those 21 and older would help the debt problem and free up space in jail in turn helping taxpayers. I think it's a win win all around.

    January 6, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  9. S. B. Stein

    There needs to be more scientific research to determine what marijuana does for both short and long term effects on various ages and conditions. Without knowing that and being able to fully evaluate the stories people have told, we can't really accept that it is something for people to "just try."

    January 6, 2014 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  10. puddintane

    dope is for dopes, it fits the times we live in, the decline of western civilization is underway

    January 6, 2014 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  11. jeff

    Gee...isn't it a surprise that CNN and USA Today leading the charge once again in trying to push their agendas.

    January 6, 2014 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  12. Phil

    So at what point will the federal government drop the prohibition? The turn is happening what purpose is served by continuing this charade you have about cannabis. Remove Schedule 1 now.

    January 6, 2014 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  13. jimmy jack

    Give me one good reason why pot should be illegal.

    January 6, 2014 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  14. LB Zimmerman

    My husband and I have been sitting here watching Anderson Cooper discuss the legalization of pot with a panel of both conservatives and progressives. Really? Is this discussion still happening in a country that has allowed prescription medications to infiltrate the market that have the ability to kill, but, yet this plant, which has so many healing properties and has done so much for so many people over the decades? I can't believe, that we are still having this argument. this should have been legalized decades ago. Marijuana is only addictive with addictive people. It heals, it takes pain away, aids in sleep, aids in nausea, aids in lowering blood pressure, aids in reducing seizures, aids althzheimer patients with anxiety, and frankly is not at all destructive, if used in moderation, and that is the key word here. Moderation. I find it humorous that the people who are commenting the most and are the most negative, are the ones who seem to know the least about it.

    January 6, 2014 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  15. CJ

    I was gonna post a comment, then I got High...

    January 6, 2014 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  16. ED1

    If you are going to do this then tax it at a rate of $1,000 an ounce and make some money off of it.

    January 6, 2014 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  17. linda

    I think Patrick kennedy's comments on legalization of pot was so wrong.. Get rid of the alcohol and crack.. I still want to see facts that smoking pot kills people unlike alcohol that kills people everyday!! Im sure he drinks and that's ok? No way!!! Wish I was on that panel.. Get over it and let people enjoy what doesn't hurt... Thank you

    January 6, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  18. Forrest

    I think the legalization of marijuana will have to start at the federal level. States can legalize all they want, but federal laws will keep most americans in limbo about what is okay and what is not. Those who operate commercial motor vehicles for example are subject to federal DOT regulations. Just because your State allows the use of marijuana, you'll still be subject to loss of licensure for a positive urinalysis which is federally mandated.

    January 6, 2014 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  19. stta

    There are some who want or need marijuana and there are some that don't and really don't care. Those that want or need it are the voices calling for the legalization. Those that don't really care aren't going to fight it. All I care is as it becomes legal those that use marijuana show some respect so I don't have to breath or smell it. If your going to be stoned do it some place safe and not on the roads or at public events. I can live my entire life without drugs or alcohol so all I ask is I get the same respect and rights to breath clean air and not have to deal with stoned people just as those that want marijuana want the freedom to alter their minds for a while.

    January 6, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  20. Freedom Ain't Free

    Most of the old Republicans who were against this are dying off now.

    January 6, 2014 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  21. HypoCrisy

    I was taught in school that “Marijuana” was a “gateway” drug and that it caused health problems. Now the great city of New York disproves the board of education by legalizing it for medicinal purposes and reduces the penalty for possession. Man, all those people that were jailed and are still in jail right now for possession of a soon to be legal and medically proven helpful drug. Looks like New York City finally got their hands around the logistics of Marijuana distribution and taxation.

    January 6, 2014 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  22. Bill

    You think that Slavery & Prohibition are over? Far from it, prohibition of cannabis exists and that leads to slavery of those imprisoned for violating the prohibition. Yes, the for profit penal, legal system is the largest employer in this country and we incarcerate more people than any other nation in the world including N Korea & China combined.

    What is behind the Prohibition & Slavery The two things that have made humans more high, more stoned, more addicted than any substance in the world: money & power. Abolish Prohibition now. End prison slavery now.

    January 6, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  23. UriNation

    The War on Drugs has been and continues to be a massive failure. It's time to regulate and tax it. Doing so will reduce prison populations by more than 1/2.

    January 6, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  24. jimdevo

    it's just a matter of time...

    January 6, 2014 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  25. FritzIdler

    If it is made legal, big business will take it over. So I think small time growers and sellers won't be too happy with that. Most people are not going to grow their own. If the government wants to tax weed big time, the main reason it is interested, the growing and selling of weed will have be licensed. Once corporations step in, they will process it to no end. Which means short cuts, genetic alterations, and chemicals. But what I'd like to know is, will they let people light up in bars? What about public parks? And what about the children? Old enough to kill, not old enough to vote, or toke. What a drag man.

    January 6, 2014 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
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