Nearly six in ten Americans now believe that marijuana use ought to be legal and only about one in three favor continuing to criminalize the plant, according to nationwide survey data published today by the Pew Research Center.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents say “The use of marijuana should be made legal,” the highest percentage of Americans ever to answer the question affirmatively in a Pew poll. Only 37 percent of respondents disagree with legalization.
The percentages mark a dramatic shift in public opinion over the past decade. In 2006, only 32 percent of Pew survey respondents favored legalization, while 60 percent opposed the idea. Much of this change is a result of shifting opinions among Millennials (those ages 18 to 35). While only 34 percent of Millennials favored legalizing marijuana in 2006, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of younger Americans support this policy change today.
Democrats (66 percent), Independents (63 percent), and men (60 percent) were also among those most likely to endorse legalization. Support was lowest among those respondents over 71 years of age (33 percent) and Republicans (41 percent).
The survey possesses a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.
Voters in five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — will be deciding on initiatives to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of cannabis on Election Day.