February 27, 2015

63% of Republican Millennials favor marijuana legalization

Support for legalizing marijuana has rapidly outpaced opposition, with a slim majority (52%) favoring its legal use as of October 2014. That trend is driven largely by the Millennial generation, who support marijuana at much higher rates than their elders.

Support for Marijuana Largely a Generational StoryBut when looking more closely at the opinions of young and old, the age gap is starkest among Republicans and those who lean Republican – a strikingly similar trend to what we’ve seen within the party when it comes to same-sex marriage.

Six-in-ten (63%) GOP Millennials say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 35% say it should be illegal, according to our February 2014 survey. That level of support is higher than among Republican Generation Xers (47%) and Baby Boomers (38%), and much higher than among GOP members of the Silent generation (17%). (When we asked the question again in October, overall opinion was only slightly changed.)

Most Young Republicans Favor Same-Sex MarriageRepublican Millennials, however, are not as supportive of marijuana legalization as their young Democratic and Democratic-leaning counterparts. Democrats overall are more enthusiastic supporters, with three-in-four (77%) Democratic Millennials favoring legal marijuana use, as well as 66% of Boomers, 61% of Gen Xers and 44% of the Silent generation inside the party. Across every generational divide, Democrats show higher support than Republicans on this issue.

The overall sea change in marijuana views comes as Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia passed ballot measures legalizing marijuana use in the 2014 election, with the latter two officially going into effect this week. (Colorado and Washington are the only other states that have instituted laws to legalize marijuana.)

But legalization in the nation’s capital drew heated criticism from congressional Republicans, who called for investigations and hearings against the city. It also came up at this week’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, the day the D.C. voter initiative went into effect, with a panel debate between 2014 libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and former Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle of New York.

The debate over marijuana also comes ahead of the 2016 presidential election, when both political parties are fighting over the coveted Millennial vote as this group of eligible voters swells in size, even if its members do not consistently show up on Election Day.

It’s not as though Americans are unconcerned about the drug. Most Americans (54%) say legalization would lead to more underage use, according to a separate survey conducted in February 2014. But Americans overall also view marijuana as less harmful than alcohol, both to personal health and to society more generally. And most Americans (76%) think that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not have to serve time in jail, with large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agreeing on the issue.

Another interesting historical trend is how opinions have evolved across generational groups. Namely, Baby Boomers’ support for marijuana legalization peaked in the late 1970s, before plummeting in the 1980s during the nation’s “War on Drugs” era. But today, Boomers’ support for legalizing marijuana is greater than it was four decades ago. Even within the last decade, Millennials have shifted. In 2006, just 34% of Millennials favored the legal use of marijuana; by 2014, that share had risen to 69%.

Topics: Drugs, Generations and Age, Millennials, Political Party Affiliation

  1. is an associate digital producer at Pew Research Center.

18 Comments

  1. Zach Moody4 months ago

    I completely support saving unknown stacks of cash by marketing and using marijuana for medicinal purposes AND recreational purposes as well.

  2. anonymous 8th grader11 months ago

    Why do people want illegal drugs legal?

    1. anon10 months ago

      Unfortunately, the problem as of late has become that the illegality of the drugs, as opposed to the drugs themselves, has a more detrimental to society.

  3. Ron1 year ago

    I hope Cannabis become legal in Florida medical and recreational I have chronic pain 24/7 Pain pills don’t get rid of the pain as well as Cannabis does combined with my pain medication cannabis helps extend my pain relief

    1. Nicholas Reckmeyer9 months ago

      I hope it happens in Virginia for the same reason

  4. Nick1 year ago

    What’s the sample size?

  5. Publius1 year ago

    What this survey fails to tell is that most all Americans of every age group would support legalization if and only if we removed the safety net for those smoking. What you want to do in your own house is your business, but when you collect unemployment checks, subsidized birth control, food stamps, welfare, and a host of other “entitlements” why should I support your addiction to pot? End the welfare state and remove the safety net, and let all Americans be free to choose.

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      Some people believe that drugs should be “legal” because they dont want people to go to prison for a really long time for doing drugs. Its a waste of a life, taxpayer money, and police officers’ time. Some people have spent most of their lives in prison for having drugs. Some people have been murdered and tortured, and their killer spent less time in prison than a person having drugs…We need to put people who do evil things in prison. We need another place for drug users to go for help.

  6. Jeff2 years ago

    Is there not a clause, in our doctrine the Constitution, that states we must “Secure the Blessing of Liberty” and “Promote the General Welfare? Since when is Recreational Intoxication, considered a Blessing?

    There are principles, manifested in our countries doctrines, that guarantee a sustainable government. Legalizing unethical or immoral liberties, is not one of them.

    It seems that our nations youths boredom, is being taken advantage of, by substance abusers and distributors, because that age group is susceptible to experimentation. Altering the anxiety receptors of that age group, is a tactical means of gaining popularity in the polls. Thus influencing the polls.

  7. ffortner2 years ago

    Sample size, please?

  8. A. Millennial2 years ago

    As a millennial I really wish people would just stop fighting against obvious trends. It’s happening, your not got going to stop it, your just delaying the inevitable. Basically, I just want the boomers to get out of the way so we can work on fixing the mess they left now rather than when we are 40.

    1. Another.Millenial1 year ago

      Amen!

      1. DG10 months ago

        Too true 🙁

    2. Andrew Rodriguez10 months ago

      give it another 5 years and change will really start to accelerate

    3. Jessica Gartner5 months ago

      Some people believe that drugs should be “legal” because they dont want people to go to prison for a really long time for doing drugs. Its a waste of a life, taxpayer money, and police officers’ time. Some people have spent most of their lives in prison for having drugs. Some people have been murdered and tortured, and their killer spent less time in prison than a person having drugs…We need to put people who do evil things in prison. We need another place for drug users to go for help.

  9. Thomas Lee2 years ago

    With the substance known as marijuana real name cannabis, I safer than any other substance one can use as medicine or any other use. To continue as if the facts are different is cruel and inhuman to the point of being a crime against humanity it self. Then it only a lesser of evil of god’s and man’s. Remember God said he made it all and it’s all good except man in which he regret giving a voice to.

  10. malcolm kyle2 years ago

    Prohibitionists actually believe they can transcend human nature and produce a better world. They allow only one doctrine, an impossible-to-obtain drug-free world. All forms of dissent, be they common-sense, scientific, constitutional or democratic, are simply ignored and their proponents vehemently persecuted.

    During alcohol prohibition in the United States, from 1919 to 1933, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. While battling over turf, young men died on inner-city streets. Corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary went clean off the scale. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have been far more wisely allocated. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally, in 1929, the economy collapsed. Does that sound familiar?

    1. Another Millenial1 year ago

      Every Millenial agrees with you.