Fox News/Opinion Dynamics: Most Americans Don't Support Decriminalizing Pot

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While one in four Americans believes marijuana should be made legal, a hefty majority (66 percent) opposes legalization according to a national FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll.

Democrats and independents are twice as likely as Republicans are to favor legalization. Men are slightly more inclined than women are to favor it (28 percent to 23 percent). When looking at the numbers among those who say they have tried marijuana, the results divide almost evenly with 47 percent supporting legalizing and 46 percent saying keep it illegal. Only 14 percent of those who have never tried marijuana support its legalization.

Support for legalizing marijuana is strongly correlated with age; 53 percent of young adults age 18-25 think it should be compared to 33 percent of 26-34 year olds and 15 percent of those aged 60-70. Young people may have a more open attitude toward legalization because they are also much more likely to have tried marijuana.

Fully 33 percent of respondents admit to trying marijuana at least once. (Note: the poll was taken of registered voters nationwide, so respondents were at least 18 years old.) Overall, 62 percent claim to have "just said no" and never tried the drug.

However, if marijuana has a benefit, the public is willing to change its mind. For example, the poll found substantial support for allowing adults to use marijuana for medical purposes (79 percent vs. 16 percent opposed). Among those who have tried marijuana, fully 91 percent favor medical marijuana. Currently there are nine states across the country that have past legislation legalizing medical marijuana, and in eight of these states the legislation has come through voter initiatives.

"The demographics of this issue suggest that support for marijuana legalization will only grow over time," commented Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "A majority of those under age 50, that is those who have grown up since the late 1960s, have tried it and are much more favorable toward it. Those who are most opposed to it are older and will die off first, automatically producing growing support. Those who oppose at least some decriminalization are going to face a tougher and tougher battle as time goes on."

Overall, the public thinks it is easier for teenagers in America to obtain alcohol (45 percent) than it is for them to get hold of marijuana (24 percent) or a gun (16 percent). Young adults, those most likely to be able to answer this question based on recent experience, agree and put the items in the same order of attainability.

When asked which would cause more concern, learning their teenager was having a sexual relationship topped the list (33 percent) virtually tying with learning their teen was smoking marijuana (32 percent). Discovering their teen was drinking alcohol was of the most concern to 18 percent.

Polling was conducted by telephone March 28-29, 2001 in the evenings. The sample is 905 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.

1. Do you think smoking marijuana should be made legal, or not?

2. Do you think adults should be allowed to use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician prescribes it?

3. Which do you think it’s easier for a teenager in America today to obtain:

4. Imagine for a moment that you have a teenage child. Would you be more concerned to learn that your teenager was:

5. By the way, and this is totally confidential, have you personally ever tried marijuana, even once?