While a majority of Americans now believe marijuana should be legalized in the United States, conservative, religious and older Americans remain the most skeptical of the idea.
A recent analysis of aggregate polling data from Gallup found support for legalization averaged 67% among the general population “but varied significantly by subgroup,” according to a report by Jeffrey Jones of Gallup. “Conservative, religious and older Americans are the least supportive, while liberal, nonreligious and younger Americans are the most supportive.”
He added: “Specifically, subgroups whose support for legalization exceeds the national average by 10 or more percentage points include those with no religious preference (89%), self-identified liberals (84%), Democrats (81%), young adults (79%) and those who seldom or never attend religious services (78%). Groups whose support is at least 10 points below the national average include those who attend church weekly (46%), conservatives (49%), Republicans (51%), older adults (53%) and Hispanic adults (56%).”
Support for legalizing marijuana has grown substantially since Gallup first began asking the question in 1969. Then, only 12% of Americans were in favor. A majority of Americans expressed support for legalization beginning in 2013, and since 2016, the level of support has been 60% or higher.
Jone noted that Gallup has found “ideology is slightly more influential than the other variables” studied in the polling data.
“Political liberals are about three times more likely, on average, than political conservatives to support legalizing marijuana. Similarly, younger adults, Democrats, those who seldom or never attend church and those without a religious preference are slightly less than 2.5 times more likely to say marijuana should be legal than older adults, Republicans, weekly churchgoers and those with a religious preference, respectively.”
There’s a caveat to the political ideology data, however. “At every age level, conservatives are less likely than moderates or liberals to support making marijuana legal. However, majorities of younger conservatives (those under age 50) favor legalization, compared with 32% of older conservatives.”
Gallup found a 33-point gap between the oldest and youngest conservatives — something unmatched among liberals, of whom 81% or more support legalization regardless of age.
California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, the medical use of cannabis has been legalized in 39 states and the District of Columbia. The recreational use of cannabis has been approved in the District of Columbia and 21 states.