Political Issue: Marijuana

Not Quite Half of Under-30 Crowd Support Legalization of Marijuana; Significant Differences By Party, Age and Gender Emerge

The opinion of 18- to 29- year olds related to the legalization of marijuana has remained unchanged since the last time that we asked this question in the Spring of 2013. When 18- to 29- year olds were asked whether they support, oppose or unsure about legalizing marijuana - we found that 44 percent support legalization (23% strongly support, 21% somewhat support), 34 percent oppose (23% strongly oppose, 11% somewhat oppose) and 22 percent are unsure - the exact same percentages across the board as one year ago. Recently, other polls have asked similar but not the exact same question about marijuana. Through analysis of recent polling data from Pew Research which asked “Should marijuana be legal? Yes or No,” it was reported that 70 percent responded “Yes” and 29 responded “No.” We believe that the legalization of marijuana is a complex and nuanced issue - while we cannot make direct comparisons between our data and Pew data, our interpretation from both polls is that by a margin of not quite two to one, the self-proclaimed 22 percent of “unsure” voters in our poll would favor legalization if asked the question in a binary manner.

Despite a solid level of support in favor of legalization, support is not widespread and there are a number of notable differences in opinion on this issue that are worth noting. For example:

  • Democrats support legalization 49 percent to 28 percent (oppose), Republicans oppose, 32 (support) percent to 50 percent;
  • Younger Millennials ages 18- to- 24- years old are less sure about legalization, 38 percent support, 39 percent oppose, 22 percent unsure — while 25- to 29- year olds support by a margin of 50 percent to 28 percent (21 percent unsure);
  • Whites support legalization 49 percent to 32 percent, while Blacks (38% support, 36%
    oppose) and Hispanics (37% percent, 37%) are close to even.








Among the 10 percent of young Americans in our survey who report having used marijuana in the “last few months,” not surprisingly  88 percent support legalization; among those who have not used the drug in the last few months, 37 percent support legalization, 39 percent oppose legalization with 23 percent unsure, or on the fence.

When the question is changed to legalization for medical purposes, a majority of most every subgroup of 18- to 29- year olds support, including by party, gender, and age. Overall, two-thirds (66%) would support this measure, 14 percent would oppose and the percentage of young people saying they are unsure is 19 percent.

Among Those Who Haven’t Used Marijuana Recently, Nearly Nine-in-Ten Say They Are Unlikely to Change Behavior if Marijuana Legalization Passed

When those who have not used marijuana in the “last few months” were asked if legalization would cause them to use it, 12 percent (with rounding) said that they definitely (2%) or probably would (9%) use it, and 88 percent said they would definitely not (64%) or probably not (24%) use it.

Asked how  their  perception of a friend might change if they  learned that  friend used  marijuana recreationally, 65 percent of 18- to 29- year  olds  said  that  it would not change their  perception of them. Three in ten (30%)  percent of respondents however said  that  their  perception of a friend would change negatively, compared to 5 percent who said  it would change positively.

Unclear if Marijuana is a Major Driver of Participation

Approximately one-in-four young (23%) Americans agree with the statement that they would be more likely to vote in an election where legalizing marijuana were on the ballot, and 32 percent disagreed. The plurality (43%) of 18- to 24- year olds report that they neither agree or disagree with this statement, essentially saying that it is a non-factor. There was no statistical difference in the number of Democrats (26%) who agreed with the statement compared to Republicans (21%).


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