Pew: Attitudes on Marijuana Legalization Vary Significantly

Pew: Attitudes on Marijuana Legalization Vary Significantly

It’s no secret there’s growing bipartisan support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. But a newly released survey from the Pew Research Center reveals significant intra-party differences in how people of varying political perspectives view the issue of legalizing cannabis for recreational use. At the same time, there is a broad consensus across ideological lines that patients should be able to legally access marijuana for medical purposes.

At a top level, the poll, “Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology,” identifies a common trend: Democrats are more likely to support full marijuana legalization than Republicans. But it’s not that simple. Pew placed respondents in one of nine political groups across the spectrum and found opinions on marijuana policy can vary significantly, even among people who share core socio/political beliefs.

“Partisan polarization remains the dominant, seemingly unalterable condition of American politics. Republicans and Democrats agree on very little — and when they do, it often is in the shared belief that they have little in common,” Pew stated in its report. “Yet the gulf that separates Republicans and Democrats sometimes obscures the divisions and diversity of views that exist within both partisan coalitions — and the fact that many Americans do not fit easily into either one.”

Take cannabis, for example.

Recent polls have found a growing percentage of Republicans are embracing marijuana legalization, but the Pew information offers a window into where that surge in support is coming from.

Principally, it’s the so-called Ambivalent Right, the youngest conservative group, where 60% back legalizing medical and recreational marijuana.

People classified in the Ambivalent Right group “hold conservative views about the size of government, the economic system and issues of race and gender. But they are the only group on the political right in which majorities favor legal abortion and say marijuana should be legal for recreational and medical use,” the report stated.

That’s the only right-leaning typology expressing majority support for adult-use and medical cannabis legalization. But two of the others — the Populist Right and Committed Conservatives — do hover just under the 50% mark. The exception is “Faith and Flag Conservatives,” where only 33% said they favor full legalization.

People grouped into that group “are intensely conservative in all realms; they are far more likely than all other typology groups to say government policies should support religious values and that compromise in politics is just ‘selling out on what you believe in.’”

But despite the deep conservative beliefs of this group, 47% of respondents still said cannabis should be legal for therapeutic use. By contrast, only 19% said marijuana should be totally prohibited.

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Committed Conservatives and the Populist Right, however, are fairly evenly divided on recreational cannabis legalization.

People associated with the former typology “express conservative views across the board, but with a somewhat softer edge.” With respect to marijuana, 44% said it should be legal for any use, whereas 43% said it should only be legalized for medical purposes.

The Populist Right are conservatives with lower levels of education who are likely to live in rural places. The poll found that 45% of people in this group back adult-use and medical legalization, while 44% said just medical cannabis should be legal.

Just 11% of respondents from each of those two categories said marijuana should be outright banned.

Meanwhile, 62% of Stressed Sideliners, a centrist group defined by low political engagement and a “mix of conservative and liberal views,” also support ending prohibition across the board.

On the left side of the spectrum, there was majority support for marijuana legalization among every typography of Democratic-leaning respondents. But even so, there was a 26% point difference between the Progressive Left, who back full legalization at 91%, while only 65% of Democratic Mainstays support the reform.

The Mainstays are “the largest Democratic-oriented group, as well as the oldest on average,” Pew said. The Progressive Left, meanwhile, “have very liberal views on virtually every issue and support far-reaching changes to address racial injustice and expand the social safety net.”

About 70% of Establishment Liberals — defined as people with progressive views but who feel less inclined to back sweeping change — support adult-use and medical marijuana legalization. And 73% of the Outsider Left feel the same. That group is “very liberal in most of their views, but they are deeply frustrated with the political system — including the Democratic Party and its leaders.”

Overall, the poll — which was based on interviews with 5,109 Americans from April 5 to 11 and incorporated into the broader survey released this month — found 60% of respondents favor broad legalization, 31% support medical cannabis legalization and just 8% say it should be prohibited altogether.

This piece is part of a content-sharing arrangement between The News Station and Marijuana Moment.

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