When Gallup first asked this question in 1969, a mere 12 percent of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana use. Support rose to 28 percent in the late 1970s, but retreated in the 1980s during the era of the Just Say No campaign. Support floated in the 25 percent range through the mid-1990s, but hiked to 31 percent in 2000 and hasn’t stopped climbing since.
Support for legalization reached a majority for the first time in 2013, when Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational use. Since then, most Americans have continued to say marijuana use should be legalized. In 2013 and 2015, it reached its previous high of 58 percent.
Millennials are overwhelmingly in support of legalization
Over the past decade, support among young adults (those aged 18 to 34) has climbed 33 percentage points to 77 percent. Among adults aged 55 and older, support is up 16 points to 45 percent.
When it comes to the political spectrum, support has increased more among independents and Democrats than it has among Republicans, but this is partly due to the older age skew of the latter. Gallup found that 70 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats support legalization, a massive upswing since the combined survey of 2003 and 2005, when 46 percent of independents and 38 percent percent of Democrats expressed their support. Support among Republicans has doubled from more than a decade ago, but that only amounts to 42 percent in support today.
This Gallup poll was conducted via telephone interviews between Oct. 5 and 9. Results were gathered from a random sample of 1,017 adults aged 18 and older living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the complete sample of adults nationwide, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
California could be trendsetter on Election Day
Gallup predicts that if California votes yes on recreational use this November, “many other states will likely follow, because the ‘Golden State’ often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S.”
The polling firm goes on to state that the dramatic change in public opinion about marijuana over the past 50 years has “mirrored the liberalization of public attitudes about gay rights and the same-sex marriage movement, the latter of which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed legal last year. It is possible that it might take a Supreme Court case to settle this matter, too.”