For the first time, the majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, indicating a shifting public opinion in regards to the government’s criminalization of drug use.
The new survey, which was conducted by the Pew Research Center, indicates that 52 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, which is 11 points higher than the results of the 2010 survey asking the same question.
The results also portray a drastic shift from public opinion held in the 1960s, when the overwhelming majority believed pot use should be criminalized. In 1969, Gallup found that 84 percent of Americans opposed the legalization of marijuana, and only 12 percent supported it.
“For the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana,” Pew said in a statement.
The polling organization also found that the largest group of marijuana supporters were young people between the ages of 18 and 32, but that Baby Boomer generations were also more likely to favor the drug’s legalization. Only about one tenth of the respondents said they had used marijuana in the past year, indicating that although the majority of Americans had not themselves smoked weed, they were open to the idea of letting others do so.
“The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17 among 1,501 adults, finds that young people are the most supportive of marijuana legalization,” Pew writes. “Fully 65 percent of Millennials – born since 1980 and now between 18 and 32 – favor legalizing the use of marijuana, up from just 36% in 2008. Yet there also has been a striking change in long-term attitudes among older generations, particularly Baby Boomers.”
In November, Gallup found that 50 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana. In December, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 51 percent of registered voters felt that way. And in a Los Angeles Times poll posted this week, 93 percent of respondents said marijuana should be legalized for recreational use, as of Thursday afternoon.