(CBS NEWS) -- For the first time since the CBS News Poll began asking the
question, a slight majority of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana
Fifty-one percent say they think the use of
marijuana should be made legal, while 44 percent do not. Public opinion
on this issue has changed
dramatically over the past few years: in
October 2011 a slight majority (51 percent) opposed making marijuana use
legal, and as
recently as April 2013 public opinion was divided on this issue (45
percent supported, 45 percent opposed). Interestingly, in July 1979,
when CBS News first asked the question, 69 percent thought marijuana use
should not be made legal and only 27 percent thought it should be made
Legal: The Demographics
Views that marijuana use should be made legal have risen
across nearly every demographic group since April 2013:
- Support for legalizing marijuana use has grown among
Americans under 44, and now most Americans 45 to 64 think marijuana should be
legal (55 percent; in April this age group was divided).
The only age group that still opposes legalizing marijuana use is
seniors 65 and older.
- Support has increased among both men and women,
but there remains a gender gap. Most men
(57 percent) think marijuana use should be made legal, while fewer women (46 percent) think
- Most Democrats (59 percent), independents (54 percent),
liberals (72 percent), and moderates (54 percent), support legalizing marijuana use.
- However, most Republicans (61 percent) and
conservatives (61 percent) oppose legalizing marijuana, though support has risen among
these groups as well.
- Support for legalizing marijuana use has risen
six points among Americans earning under $100K a year (50 percent now vs. 44 percent), and 12 points among
those earning $100K or more (64 percent now vs. 52 percent).
Americans support the use of marijuana for medicinal
purposes in overwhelming numbers. Eighty-six percent think doctors
should be allowed to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for
patients suffering from serious illnesses.
Americans have supported medical marijuana use since 1997 when CBS News
began asking the question, though then 62 percent thought doctors should
be allowed to prescribe marijuana for medical use.
Still, a majority of Americans show some skepticism about
the medical marijuana programs that exist today. Just a third of
Americans think most of the
marijuana that is being purchased in this country through state
programs is being used to alleviate suffering from serious medical
illnesses. Most - 56 percent - think it is being used for other
Nevertheless, 77 percent of Americans who think most of the medical
marijuana purchased is being used for other purposes still think doctors should
be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana.
Decide: Federal Gov't or States?
Marijuana use remains illegal under federal law, though a
majority of Americans don't think this is a matter that should involve the
federal government. Sixty-two percent say legalizing
marijuana should be left up to each state government to decide.
This poll was conducted by
telephone January 17-21, 2014 among 1,018 adults nationwide. Data collection
was conducted on behalf of CBS News by Social Science Research Solutions of
Media, Pa. Phone numbers were dialed
from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based
on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error
for subgroups may be higher. Interviews
were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards
of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus