New CNN Poll Confirms More than Half of Americans Want to Legalize Pot

CNN/ORC International survey released Monday has a solid majority of Americans supporting the legalization of marijuana. Some 55% agreed that marijuana should be legal, with 44% disagreeing.


CNN called the results "a major turnaround from past decades," citing its own and General Social Surveying polls showing support for legalization at only 16% in 1987, before rising to 26% in 1996 and 34% in 2002. Support has jumped 12 point in just two years; CNN had support at 43% in 2012.

The CNN poll results are similar to an October Gallup Poll that had support for legalization a record-breaking 58% nationwide. That was in line with a number of other polls since the 2012 elections that showed support either above or just below 50%, depending on the pollster. But in another survey released Monday, the conservative Rasmussen poll had support for legalization at only 41%.

"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.

Regional support was strongest in the Northeast (60%), followed by the West (58%) and the Midwest (57%), with the South trailing at 48%.

Two-thirds of those under 35 supported legalization, but so did nearly as many (64%) in the 35-49 age group. Half of those 50 to 64 believe marijuana should be legal, but that number dropped to 39% for those age 65 and older.

The number of Americans who think marijuana use is immoral has also undergone a seismic shift. In 1987, 70% thought it was immoral; in the CNN poll, the number has been halved to 35%. And the number of Americans who think marijuana is a serious social problem has also declined dramatically, from 65% in 1972 (the year President Nixon declared drugs "public enemy #1") to 19% now.

"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."

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 +/-3%.

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