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Survey | General Public, Christian Young Adults Divided on Marijuana Legalization

[04.25.2013]

April PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey

 

Read the news release here.
Read the topline questionnaire, including the survey methodology, here.
Read the Religion News Service story here.

Americans are roughly divided on whether marijuana use should be legal. Forty-five percent of Americans favor making the use of marijuana legal, while 49% are opposed. There are significant divisions by political and religious affiliation.

  • Less than 3-in-10 (29%) white evangelical Protestants, 40% of Catholics, and 40% of minority Christians favor making the use of marijuana legal.  Nearly half (49%) of white mainline Protestants favor making the use of marijuana legal, while 45% are opposed. By contrast, nearly two-thirds (66%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans favor making marijuana legal.
  • Democrats (54%) and independents (51%) are much more likely than Republicans (25%) to favor making the use of marijuana legal.
  • Non-Hispanic white (47%) and black (48%) Americans are significantly more likely to support marijuana legalization than Hispanic Americans (34%).
  • Young adults (age 18-29) are more likely than middle-aged Americans (age 50-64) or seniors (65 and older) to favor the legalization of marijuana (54%, 45%, and 28% respectively).
  • Half (50%) of Christian young adults favor the legalization of marijuana, while 44% are opposed. By contrast, approximately 1-in-5 (22%) Christian seniors favor making the use of marijuana legal.

Research Page Graphic Survey | General Public, Christian Young Adults Divided on Marijuana LegalizationThe experience of trying marijuana has a strong influence on attitudes about legalization.  Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans who report they have ever tried marijuana support legalizing marijuana, while an identical number (65%) of Americans who report that they have not tried marijuana oppose its legalization.

There is considerably more support for legalizing marijuana if it is to be used for medical purposes. Most Americans (63%) who oppose the general legalization of marijuana nonetheless favor making marijuana legal to treat certain medical conditions if prescribed by a doctor. In addition to the 45% of Americans who favor the general legalization of marijuana, 35% of Americans say they would favor the legalization of medical marijuana, compared to less than 1-in-5 (19%) who oppose the legalization of medical marijuana. Majorities of all major religious groups and political parties favor the legalization of medical marijuana.

More than 4-in-10 (42%) Americans report having tried marijuana at some point in their lives, while about 6-in-10 (57%) say they have never tried marijuana.

  • There are significant religious differences in usage of marijuana. Catholics (33%) are the only religious group that is significantly less likely than the general public to report having tried marijuana. About 4-in-10 white evangelical Protestants (40%) and white mainline Protestants (44%), along with a majorities of minority Christians (52%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (54%) report having tried marijuana at some point in their lives.
  • Democrats (48%) are significantly more likely than Republicans (36%) to say they have tried marijuana.
  • Men (49%) are more likely than women (35%) to report having ever used marijuana.
  • Young adults (43%) and middle-aged Americans (48%) are approximately three times more likely than seniors (15%) to report having tried marijuana.
  • More than 4-in-10 (45%) Christian young adults report that they have tried marijuana, compared to 13% of Christian seniors.
  • Black Americans (52%) are more likely than both white non-Hispanic Americans (43%) and Hispanic Americans (33%) to report having tried marijuana.

Nearly half (49%) of Americans believe that using marijuana is morally acceptable, while 4-in-10 (40%) say that marijuana use is morally wrong.

  • There are significant differences of opinion among religious groups. Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) white evangelical Protestants and half (50%) of minority Christians believe that using marijuana is morally wrong. By contrast, majority (58%) white mainline Protestants and two-thirds (67%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans say marijuana use is morally acceptable. Catholics are evenly divided in their views about the morality of using marijuana: 46% say it is morally acceptable, and 41% say it is morally wrong.
  • A majority (52%) of Christian young adults agree that using marijuana is morally acceptable, compared to one-quarter (25%) of Christian seniors.
  • Democrats and Republicans have virtually opposite moral judgments about the use of marijuana. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats say marijuana use is morally acceptable, while 56% of Republicans say it is morally wrong.
  • Young adults (56%) are nearly twice as likely as seniors (30%) to say that using marijuana is morally acceptable.
  • Americans living in the West (56%) are substantially more likely than Americans living in the South (43%) to say using marijuana is morally acceptable.

Fewer Americans believe that using marijuana constitutes a sin or that it is prohibited by the Bible.

  • Less than 1-in-4 (23%) Americans believe using marijuana is a sin, while 70% disagree. However, white evangelical Protestants are more divided than any other religious group: 40% say using marijuana is a sin, while 48% say it is not.
  • One-in-five (20%) Americans, including nearly 3-in-10 (29%) white evangelical Protestants, believe that the Bible prohibits marijuana use.

More than one-third (35%) of Americans believe that new laws legalizing the usage of marijuana are a sign of the moral decline of America. Six-in-ten (60%) Americans disagree.

  • Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) white evangelical Protestants believe that new laws legalizing the use of marijuana are a sign of America’s moral decline, compared to 36% of white mainline Protestants, 32% of Catholics, and 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans.
  • Only 3-in-10 (30%) Christian young adults believe that new laws legalizing the use of marijuana are a sign of America’s moral decline, while two-thirds (67%) disagree. By contrast, a majority (54%) of Christian seniors believe that new laws legalizing the use of marijuana are a sign of America’s moral decline.
  • Republicans (53%) are twice as likely as Democrats (26%) to believe that new laws legalizing marijuana are a sign of America’s moral decline. Nearly 7-in-10 (69%) Democrats disagree.

When asked whether they use a nickname or slang term for marijuana, half of Americans refer to marijuana as either “weed” (28%) or “pot” (22%), while fewer report using terms such as “Mary Jane” (6%), “grass” (3%), “joint” or “doobie” (3%), “dope” (2%), “ganja” (2%), or “blunt” (2%).

  • Young adults (42%) are twice as likely as middle-aged Americans (19%) to refer to marijuana as “weed,” while middle-aged Americans are roughly twice as likely as young adults to refer to marijuana as “pot” (27% vs. 14%).

Cover photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Read the news release here.
Read the topline questionnaire, including the survey methodology, here.
Read the Religion News Service story here.