Polls

YouGov/Economist Poll Finds Most Americans Support Marijuana Legalization

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A new YouGov poll commissioned by The Economist finds most Americans support marijuana legalization. Here is the question:

Some people say marijuana should be treated like alcohol and tobacco. They say it should be regulated and taxed and made illegal for minors. Do you agree?

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they agreed, while only 23 percent disagreed. The remaining 19 percent had no opinion. This is the strongest support for legalization that I can recall seeing in a nationally representative poll. A Gallup poll in late October found that 46 percent of Americans favored legalization, a record for that organization's surveys. (By comparison, support was under 30 percent in Gallup polls taken during the late 1970s, a time that today is remembered as relatively pot-tolerant.) As far as I know, the only other survey to find majority support for legalizing pot was a May 2009 Zogby poll in which 52 percent of respondents favored that position. The question in that survey was pretty slanted in favor of legalization, however. 

Support for legalization in the YouGov survey was strongest among 18-to-29-year-olds, about two-thirds of whom favored the policy change, compared to less than half of respondents 65 and older. Nearly 60 percent of 30-to-64-year-olds said pot should be legal. The inverse correlation between age and support for legalization may to some extent reflect increasing conservatism as people get older. But it also corresponds to each generation's level of personal experience with marijuana. In the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, self-reported lifetime use of illegal drugs (overwhelmingly marijuana) averaged about 59 percent among 18-to-29-year-olds, 49 percent among 30-to-64-year-olds, and 15 percent among older Americans. (The actual numbers are probably somewhat higher, since people may be reluctant to admit breaking the law even in anonymous surveys.) Even if they never smoked pot themselves, Americans born after World War II are quite likely to have observed others who did. It is difficult to demonize a drug that has become so familiar, or to justify arresting people for growing, selling, and consuming it.

Meanwhile, President Obama, a former pot smoker who has declared the war on drugs "an utter failure" and used to support decriminalizing marijuana, continues to literally laugh at people who question the wisdom of prohibition. Look at how he responds at the beginning of this video when told that drug policy issues topped the list of concerns in the recent YouTube question competition. Those silly potheads!

The YouGov results are here (PDF). For further discussion of YouGov's sampling methods, go here. I charted rising pot tolerance in the August/September issue of Reason.

[Thanks to Tom Angell of LEAP for the tip.]

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124 responses to “YouGov/Economist Poll Finds Most Americans Support Marijuana Legalization

  1. Let me be clear.

    Screw you.

  2. HA!!!
    The ad above says,

    Get the straight facts
    drugfreeworld.org
    Click for you FREE marijuana booklet.
    ___________________________________

    The funny thing about polls is that they can say one thing, then the people do something else on election day. Ain’t that right California?

    1. The ad above says,

      Get the straight facts
      drugfreeworld.org
      Click for you FREE marijuana booklet.

      Omniture strikes again!

      1. Please, if everyone could please click the Drug Free Booklet ad, that would be great.

        It will feed Omniture data that this ad is popular, so it will keep posting it every chance it gets on Reason when seeing words like ‘drugs’ or ‘marijuana.’

        Plus it helps reason.com in stats for more ads, and they get paid for it. I’m writing a macro now for a virtual machine to just keep clicking that bad boy. YEAH!

        1. Unless you have some magical way of changing your VMs IP address, all subsequent clicks will be ignored.

          1. Because changing an IP address requires magic.

        2. Wait, this site has ads?

          1. Didn’t they do away with ads on the internet a few years ago?

            1. Didn’t they do away with ads on the internet a few years ago?

              Only if they mention a candidate by name within 60 days of an election.

          2. Wait, this site has ads?

            I read Reason for the articles…

            1. After my copy of reason comes in the mail, I read all the ads and then masturbate furiously to the articles. Best 10 minutes of every month.

    2. >The funny thing about polls is that they can say one thing, then the people do something else on election day. Ain’t that right California?

      Alas, the demographics for “everybody” and “likely voters” are not the same. Still, I’m optimistic for legalization, say, 10-20 years from now.

  3. It’s not an important enough issue to the voting portion of those 58% to make a dent in public policy.

    1. I dunno, I’d say the open storefront sale of high-quality pot in major American cities to recreational users is a dent.

      1. Not when the cops can come in and take everybody’s wallets.

    1. “THE TRUTH ABOUT MARIJUANA BOOKLET
      Marijuana is the word used to describe the dried flowers, seeds and leaves of the Indian hemp plant. On the street, it is called by many other names, such as astro turf, bhang, dagga, dope, ganja, grass, hemp, home grown, J, Mary Jane, pot, reefer, roach, Texas tea and weed.”

      astro turf? Texas tea? WTF???

      1. Somebody needs to be returned for regrooving.

        1. Weed, pot or trees and that will cover you about 95% (figure pulled ex recto) of the time.

            1. Thanks for digging that up; haven’t seen it in years. One of my favorite pieces of propaganda 🙂

              CBS Cares….

      2. Texas Tea? Frig, I’ve been drinking coffee all this time

      3. It was called tea back in the ’40s. I saw a Gene Krupa video where he mentioned getting busted for a stick of tea.

        1. He married the same woman twice

      4. If I learned anything from the Beverly Hillbillies, Texas Tea is crude oil.

        But they left out my favorite from the jazz age, muggles.

      5. So that’s what made Jed a millionaire.

      6. Didn’t Jed Clampett say Texas Tea was oil?

    2. Fuck off asshole. Don’t listen to him kids.

    3. Bahahahahahaa, that website has a terrible WOT rating. Yay for the internet.

      http://www.mywot.com/en/scorec…..eworld.org

    4. By the way, why are you carrying water for scientologists?

    5. In the alcohol versus pot comparison is this nugget.
      You decide. Here are the facts:

      Alcohol consists of one substance only: ethanol. Marijuana contains more than 400 known chemicals, including the same cancer-causing substances found in tobacco smoke.

      Yeah only if you are keeping you bodily fluids pure with pure grain alcohol.

      1. Funny that the comparison is to pure alcohol, rather than the contents of a drink.

      2. Never touch that ale — got hunnerds of compounds, some cancer-causing. Nope, just absolute ethanol for me.

        1. Only pure grain alcohol with distilled water or rainwater.

  4. I can’t help but wonder what the percentages would be w/o the added “make illegal for minors part”.

    If they just straight asked if marijuana should be legal or not, I doubt the percentage would be nearly that high.

    1. I think you have to make it clear to most people that legalization doesn’t mean that everything stays the same, but nasty drug dealers don’t go to jail.

  5. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they agreed, while only 23 percent disagreed. The remaining 19 percent had no opinion were to damn high to respond.

    1. The voters are too damn high!

      1. The WEED is too damn high.

  6. OT — CNN on Egyptian breaking news: Some speculate that the government is trying to provoke strong reaction to justify a crackdown.

    Gee, ya think? Let the interesting times roll …. 8-(

  7. TO my mind, that’s the right question to ask, because that’s the only feasible replacement for prohibition.

    Simply asking people “Do you want pot legalized” is practically push polling. You might as well ask them if they want kindergartners buying it like candy bars.

    1. Simply asking people “Do you want pot legalized” is practically push polling.

      Asking a straightforward question is NOT push polling. Just because you (and I) wish people’s attitudes on the topic were otherwise does not make it so.

      1. But the word “legalize” is less straightforward than describing an actual policy. Morphine and alcohol and construction paper are all legalized.

        1. Marijuana is already regulated and taxed, and this question falls far short of describing the specifics of how those regulations and taxes would change.

          So, the change to the law they’re asking about is legalization.

          1. If you count prohibition as just another regulation, then fine. But it’s schedule I, there is no meaningful regulation or taxation of pot (besides sales tax in some medical states).

          2. The words “treated like alcohol and tobacco” point to a much more specific policy than “legalized”.

          3. Marijuana is already regulated and taxed, and this question falls far short of describing the specifics of how those regulations and taxes would change.

            Wait, what? It states specifically how it’s regulation and taxes would change: It’d be treated like Alcohol and Tobacco.

            1. “it’s regulation” should read “its regulation”

              My B.

            2. Seeing as how alcohol and tobacco each are subject to vastly different regulation and taxation schemes, that is not correct.

      2. Asking a straightforward question is NOT push polling. Just because you (and I) wish people’s attitudes on the topic were otherwise does not make it so.

        I’m with RC Dean on this one. One man’s fair question is another man’s push poll.

        1. Sorry, no. A straightforward question with no declaratory clauses or debatable conditionals (“Would you support legalizing pot if it meant your kids would be waking and baking every morning?”) is not a push poll question.

          1. It’s not as though “push polling” is the only way that a poll can illicit confused or misleading results. Unintentionally vague questions can easily do the same exact thing.

    2. If Michelle Obama has her way kids will have to buy candy on the black market.

      1. But can they grow pot in their herb gardens?

  8. Is it legal in China? Because whatever the Chinese are doing we should be as well.

    1. Is it legal in China?

      Smire when you say that.

      1. China may secretly push to have legalized in the US so it will take us longer to realize they took our country after we default on the loans.

        1. Soldier 1: Do you care if it falls?
          Soldier 2: If what falls?
          Soldier 1: The American Empire
          Soldier 2: Ffffffuck it.

        2. I can’t wait for the movie! Jackie Chan to gain 40 lbs to star as Hu.

    2. I dunno, they used extreme prejudice in dealing with all those opium dens. Very much a zero-tolerance policy.

      1. Well then, no pot for demon Yankee menace!

      2. That’s why China is superior. They WON their drug war, while the US is looking to retreat.

        1. Amazing what a few hundred executions a year will do.

  9. Would the results be more favorable if the poll asked about “decriminalization” as opposed to “legalized”?

    Does that seem more palatable?

    AFAIK, no country on earth has legalized marijuana.

    1. Or “demonization”?

    2. “”AFAIK, no country on earth has legalized marijuana.””

      What’s the time frame on that? It was legal in the US before it was illegal.

      1. I was for the weed before I was against it.

          1. That never gets old.

      2. Ahh, my mistake, I was reefering (heh) to the here and now, since it was made illegal in the US. My apologies.

      3. But it was never legalized before, just as gravel has never been legalized, but is still legal.

    3. I don’t think either term does much to indicate a specific policy. Almost always, “decriminalization” still prohibits cultivation, sale, and even possession of large amounts. And you still get a fucking traffic ticket when they catch you with a couple of nugs. Bullshit.

      And “legalize” has no more real meaning than “decriminalize”. Questions like the one above, which provide an actual reference point to existing policy, make a lot more sense.

    4. I think that decriminalization does poll better (though I am too lazy to look it up). I have had to explain to a number of people that decriminalization is stupid; sure you can smoke weed and not worry about it, but it still leaves most of the harm caused by prohibition in place.

  10. It’s not an important enough issue to the voting portion of those 58% to make a dent in public policy.

    That, and a bunch of them are lying.

    I’d guess…half? Half-ish.

    The actual numbers are probably somewhat higher

    They always get the good shit.

  11. AFAIK, no country on earth has legalized marijuana.

    Well, less than eighty years ago, no country on earth had criminalized marijuana.

    Things can change.

    1. The ultimate fall-back position of the prohibitionists is “We can’t legalize drugs it’s against international law!”
      Treaty-obligations and all that…
      Which is why NO country has legalized mj.
      Another reason why there are no drug legalizers on the Left.

    2. Well, less than eighty years ago, no country on earth had criminalized marijuana.

      Things can change.

      In my opinion, things change to favor more control, not less. So yes, things did change– in favor of more control.

  12. Interestingly, the question does not contain the words “legalization”, “legal”, or any other word etymologically related to “law” (except in reference to minors)…yet Reason rushes to say that a majority supports marijuana legalization.

    This is another push poll, clearly, as it includes some pro-legalization talking points such as comparison alcohol and tobacco, and the potential for tax revenue. I wish a majority of Americans supported legalization but it is not so.

    1. And they are promoting prohibition via advertising!!

      Is it April 1st already? 😉

    2. Only the deeply confused would say “Treating marijuana like alcohol and tobacco is not legalizing it.”

      As we saw in California, though, there are many deeply confused people in this world.

      1. If every logically equivalent version of a question elicited the same response, there would be no such thing as push polling.

  13. I stand behind the DEA, their unions and their families.

    1. I’m sure they are willingly bending over for you, your Highness.

  14. Will change in the next couple of decades -few under 25 today will vote to criminalize drugs, abortion, prejudicial laws against gays, or consenting adults

    1. Just like the dope-smoking kids in the 60s said. “All we need is a president who smoked dope” they said.

      Don’t hold your breath. We’re spawning the Healthcare Generation. Every choice they make will be made through the lens of public health externalities.

      1. But cannabis looks very good on that score. It just won’t be in smoking form. Instead, sublingual spray, patch, maybe vaporizer.

        1. Let me be clear.

          You’re a funny guy, Robert.

    2. I agree. The trouble for liberals coming is the same trouble religious fundies are having right now: People who grow up in their schemes abandon them once they have the chance.

      The Drug War is about, oh, thirty years old or so? About a Nixon presidency ago or so. That generation is the start of people disillusioned by the Drug War not by ideological conclusion but direct experience with it. Kinda like the way Communist governments fall or metamorph when the first generation who grew up under such systems inherit them.

      The more people with direct experience of the Drug War, the less popular it is. We just need to wait for all the people who see Drug Wars as a pie chart and the cousin no one talks about (she does drugs…and black guys!) to slip into the minority via Father Time working its timely magic.

      Come to think of it, that’s another reason to scrap Medicare, speed that process up. (Oh, did I say that? I kid! I kid! I love old people).

      1. I agree. The trouble for liberals coming is the same trouble religious fundies are having right now: People who grow up in their schemes abandon them once they have the chance.

        I think you greatly underestimate the ability for people– especially politicans and bureaucrats– to compartmentalize.

        The “next generation” is in power, and we’re about to move to the next generation after that, and I really don’t see any sea-change on the horizon. The War on Drugs is more than just a philosophy, it’s an industry employing thousands of people. But the philosophy that does justify it implicitly extends way beyond marijuana legalization.

        The notion that the government can dictate what you put into your body has grown way past Schedule I drugs and into the mundane areas of caffeine, tobacco, fatty foods and anything else public health officials have determined produce “healthcare externalities”.

  15. This is not surprising. But, need I remind people that a vast majority of the country also supports closing the borders. But our political overlords do not. Popular support for something sadly does not translate always to political action. If there are dedicated minorities who will vote on the issue, the policy won’t change unless the majority is willing to vote. Worse still they have to have someone to vote for. As it is, both parties are drug warriors. So even if they wanted to vote on this issue, they can’t. And make no mistake, the police unions and their toadies certainly will and are voting on this issue. So, the poll is nice and better than things used to be. But I am not optimistic.

  16. The Drug War is about, oh, thirty years old or so?

    2011-1914 = 97 years
    2011-1037 = 74 years
    Nixon? = 40 years ago

    (FWIW, people often went to prison for simple possession of mj before Nixon. It was a felony most places)

    You are mathematically and historically illiterate.

    1. “2011-1937 = 74 years”

      1. Is there an internetz law for this?

    2. You are mathematically and historically illiterate.

      I’m trying to base my age estimate here off the Controlled Substances Act and the creation of the DEA. So yeah, between thirty and forty years.

      Go fuck yourself.

      1. The Federal (and states’) government vigorously pursued and prosecuted drug use, sales and trafficking for 55 years before Nixon signed the act expanding the bureaucracy and consolidating the laws.
        2011-1971= 40
        Not “between thirty and forty”
        Don’t try to think when you are high punk.

        1. I try to be nice and you’re still a prick. Go fuck yourself, and that shit underwear site you link to.

          You like splitting hairs?

          The Federal (and states’) government vigorously pursued and prosecuted drug use, sales and trafficking for 55 years before Nixon signed the act expanding the bureaucracy and consolidating the laws.

          English? Do you type English? Its nice luxury for you that I can pick out your meandering train of thought from the grammatically broken shit that comes out of your keyboard.

          1. English? Do you type English?

            The more people with direct experience of the Drug War, the less popular it is. We just need to wait for all the people who see Drug Wars as a pie chart and the cousin no one talks about (she does drugs…and black guys!) to slip into the minority via Father Time working its timely magic.

            Fuck off you little doper twit.

            1. Underwear man is bitter. Hahahaha!

                1. Must be an itch down there in your underwear you have hard time scratching. Probably because itch is in some dead lady’s underwear and not yours. Try hers, better luck there. But first you’ll need a shovel…

                2. Maybe he’s cold because he doesn’t wear underwear?

                  1. Ah, you know what. I’m going to call it day on this. I’m not inherently mean person. Thread wars suck.

                    I was off ten years and SIV can’t type. Big deal. I can get over it. Can’t say I hate SIV, usually like his posts and his site isn’t bad, got some nice pix on it.

                    So I’ll call it a day with this crap and wish everyone best of luck, see you all on another Reason thread. Seriously.

                    1. Actually you were off 67 years. The “drug war” started with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914*. No hard feelings!

                      * Teddy Roosevelt did some prior significant “battle space” prep work at home and in the international arena.

    3. A lot of people do date the “War on Drugs” to the Controlled Substances act. It may be inaccurate, but it is not an uncommon usage.

      1. I suspect that originates from the left trying to immunize their heroes Woodrow Wilson, FDr, and LBJ’s roles in enacting drug prohibition. Some of these little stoner dumbasses actually think Nixon made the stuff illegal. The Controlled Substances Act was mandated bu provisions in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
        The War on Drugs is internationalist and progressive.

    4. “the cousin no one talks about (she does drugs…and black guys!)” those were the only words I could remember-no one gives a shit who anybody fucks

  17. Actually, let me take that back. I get angry getting called illiterate.

    All I was trying to do there was differentiate between prohibition of drugs and the ‘war’ on drugs. Kind of like the way ‘terrorism’ was prohibited I would guess more-or-less forever but we’ve only had a ‘War on Terror’ for about ten years. That’s the difference I was trying to illustrate with my estimate. Sorry about flying off handle.

  18. Yes, but unlike the commenter I’m responding to I’m only struggling with typing and the lack of an edit function. Not basic arithmetic and history.

    1. re: sovereign immunity
      I also have a problem with threaded comments.

      1. No worries, sugar!

      2. You guys are fucking up the drug thread…man.

      3. I also have a problem with threaded comments.

        Hey! What did I ever do to you?!

  19. The DEA has a $60 Billion budget for busting young people in the inner city with a little bit of dried plant in their pocket. Is that the best way to spend our tax dollars? Really???

  20. There is reason for optimism here. Further, I think decrimilization will come in bit by bit like a slow leak just because of other nations decrimming and America running out of money. We will win this.

  21. LOL, I been smoking pot, every day, for 30+ years and could care less one way or the other lol.

    anonymize.edu.tc

    1. Lol, ya know, potbot, that weed leads to harder things, like comma abuse, lol!

      1. Wemi is commatose.

  22. “Some people say marijuana should be treated like alcohol and tobacco. They say it should be regulated and taxed and made illegal for minors. Do you agree?”

    LOL at the sleazy, multi-variable wording. If I answer “No,” I am saying, among other things, “Marijuana should not be made illegal for minors.”

    This is a question designed to get as many “yes” responses as possible. Con artists, as well as many other social manipulators, use this technique to get a “yes ladder” going with their marks.

  23. Legalize, regulate, tax. Far too many people are unjustly targeted by aggressive police for modest, recreational use of marijuana, often with dire consequences. For a dramatic and page-turning look at this issue, check out the novel STASH published by Random House at http://www.bydavidklein.com.

  24. Ohhhhhh, he said it was a public health issue. It must be bad.

  25. Hi Scott, just wondering if you might be able to give the readers your definition of a volunteer? Having just spent a year working in a volunteer capacity at one of the PDT field offices, where 2 of the three international staff were/ had been volunteers for PDT, I wonder if you felt that our contribution to your organization was not particularly useful?

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