Republican support for marijuana legalization has reached a record high nationally, according to new survey data from Gallup. But while a majority of voters in both major parties back the reform, a partisan divide has widened over the past two decades as Democrats have been even quicker to embrace the issue.
A majority of Democrats (83 percent) and Republicans (55 percent) both back ending cannabis prohibition, the poll shows. That’s two percentage points higher for Democrats and four percentage points higher for Republicans compared to Gallup’s 2022 survey, reflecting a more rapid uptick among GOP respondents in the past year even as the longer-term trend has put Democrats well ahead on the issue.
The 28 percentage point difference in Republican and Democratic opinion on marijuana reform represents a larger divide than was he case two decades ago when support was under 50 percent for both parties.
This is consistent with a broader trend that Gallup identified in a new report published on Monday that shows how partisan gaps have widened on a variety of issues, including those where there’s still majority support across party lines. Marijuana legalization still sees a smaller divide compared to many of the other hot button issues like global warming, gun control and abortion.
“Since 2003, Democrats have been more likely than Republicans to say that marijuana should be legalized,” the report says. “The percentage of each partisan group agreeing with legalizing marijuana increased in lockstep in 2013 and then again in 2022, but the Democratic increase has been modestly larger than Republicans’, resulting in a somewhat bigger partisan gap on this issue when measured last year than 20 years ago.”
Of the 24 issues that Gallup included in the analysis, marijuana legalization is one of nine where both parties are generally aligned with majority support or opposition, albeit at differing levels. The closest parallel to the cannabis question is same-sex marriage, which also has an 28 percentage point partisan gap, with 85 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans backing its legalization.
“Republicans and Democrats are highly polarized on a number of prominent U.S. social and policy issues, but there has been significant variation in the trends associated with these partisan gaps over the past two decades,” the report says. “The gaps have increased significantly on some issues but have changed much less on others, even with broad shifts in Americans’ attitudes that affect both partisan groups.”
“Political polarization remains an enormously important part of the U.S. political landscape,” it continues. “There are significant—and in some instances, huge—partisan differences today in views on all 24 issues included in this analysis. This confirms the fundamental foundation for any analysis of U.S. politics—the fact that individuals’ political identity is highly correlated with their views of social and policy issues, resulting in substantial differences in how issues are viewed across political segments.”
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A series of other polls that were released earlier this year similarly show that most Americans are ready to end federal marijuana prohibition, regardless of party affiliation.
But while 23 states have now enacted adult-use legalization—in addition to the vast majority that authorize some form of medical cannabis—federal reform has lagged far behind the public. GOP lawmakers in particular have generally resisted the issue despite the growing bipartisan support among their constituencies.
Meanwhile, activists are working to put legalization on the ballot in at least two swing states as the 2024 election approaches, with Ohio advocates awaiting possible certification for this November’s ballot and a Florida initiative potentially going before voters next year. Recent polls in both of those states show majority support for the proposals.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.