The latest Gallup Poll finds that 58 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal, which matches the record level of support recorded in 2013. Last year the number fell to 51 percent. In surveys conducted this year, CBS News and the Pew Research Center both put support for legalization at 53 percent.
When Gallup first asked about legalizing marijuana in 1969, just 12 percent of respondents thought it was a good idea. That number climbed to 28 percent in 1977 and dipped slightly in the early 1980s before resuming an upward climb that has continued more or less steadily since then.
Gallup has consistently found that support for legalization is inversely correlated with age. In this year's poll, 71 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds thought pot should be legal, compared to 64 percent of 35-to-49-year-olds, 58 percent of 50-to-64-year-olds, and 35 percent of respondents 65 or older. Levels of support have been rising in each age group since 1969, indicating that the generational differences persist as the cohorts age.
Gallup notes that "the increase in support nationwide is also a function of attitude change within generations of Americans over the course of their adult lifespans." Among Americans born between 1936 and 1950, for instance, 40 percent support legalization today, compared to 20 percent in 1969. Currently "senior citizens are alone among age groups in opposing pot legalization."
In other words, we can expect to see support for legalization continue to rise as the oldest generation is replaced by the next one. Gallup says "these trends suggest that state and local governments may come under increasing pressure to ease restrictions on marijuana use, if not go even further like the states of Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska in making recreational marijuana use completely legal."