Add Pew Research to the list of pollsters finding a majority of Americans supporting marijuana legalization, something that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. They found support at 52% to just 45% opposed. Some other results:
Older results from other pollsters (like ABC and Newsweek) show narrow opposition, but I have no doubt that they would get different results if they tried again now.
Something is happening in this country. Support is not only growing, it is doing so at an increasing rate. In many ways it mirrors the rapid rise in support of same-sex marriage, with support suddenly shifting over the past several years and the issue starting to gain about 3% every year in the polls. Marriage equality has gotten a lot of recent press, but this issue seems to have gone a bit under the radar since Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana last November. But this movement is undeniable, and it will significantly alter the political landscape in the coming years.
Let's go back to that recent Pew Research poll.
Just three years ago, support was only at 45% to 50% opposed. Ten years ago, support was 33% to 60% opposed! As with same-sex marriage, you have the usual trend of young Americans driving the movement: those born after 1980 support legal marijuana at 65%. But it's not just that, every age group is evolving on the issue. Support among baby boomers has shot up to an incredible 50%. Only those born before WWII remain opposed, but even their limited support has doubled in recent years to 32%.
48% of Americans reported trying marijuana at least once, up from 38% a decade ago. The number goes above half if senior citizens are excluded. 27% of those born after 1980 have used it in the past year alone.
The party breakdowns are also quite interesting. Democrats favor it 59-39%. Independents favor it 60-37%! Republicans stand alone at 37-60% opposition.
With those trends, I fully expect marijuana legalization to be a platform of the Democratic party by the end of this decade. How could they remain opposed? And why, when independents are with us fully on the issue? With numbers like these, it's no surprise to me that a politically swingy state like Colorado (won twice by Bush) would endorse marijuana by an even greater margin than they endorsed Obama by last year. Solid blue states like Illinois, California, New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts almost certainly have stronger majorities in favor than does Colorado, and I have no doubt some of those states, and others, will join together in legalizing marijuana in the next couple election cycles. Colorado and Washington did it by ballot initiative, but others will certainly do it legislatively.
In years past, I have written a few diaries on marijuana. I have been passionate about the issue since I was first old enough to vote, and my pessimism of those years has shifted to an incredible optimism as I see all the pollsters lining up to say the same thing, and with the incredible steps taken last year by Colorado and Washington. Look at how far we have come since the Bush years.
Republicans will surely fight this, as they fight all things progressive. They seem to know they are fighting a losing battle with same-sex marriage, but they haven't yet realized they are also losing on marijuana as well. As time goes on, and more states legalize it, they will come to understand that as well. We are entering a time of rapid social change where every day, people's opinions are changing, and new voters come of age who have drastically different views than their elders. Republicans are in quite a bind...they must jettison the social conservatives to remain relevant, but they cannot win without their socially conservative base. This is great for progressives, for the Democratic Party, and for America.