New Poll: Majority of American Adults Support Legalizing Marijuana, Oppose Drug War

According to a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll (PDF), American adults overwhelmingly believe the “War on Drugs” has been a failure: 65 percent of adults describe it that way, while only eight percent call it a success and 27 percent are not sure. After several decades, billions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of arrests as part of the War on Drugs, illegal drugs remain easily available throughout the nation. It’s no surprise Americans say the policy has failed.

With so many Americans viewing the War on Drugs as a policy failure, they’re now open to legalizing the most common and safest of illegal substances, marijuana.

Even more interesting, the poll finds that 52 percent of American adults either strongly or moderately support legalization of marijuana. A majority of Democrats, 57 percent, and independents, 59 percent, support it. Only 38 percent of Republicans do. The poll finds extremely little support for legalizing any other illegal drug, such as ecstasy or cocaine.

Angus Reid, a Canada-based international polling firm, was very accurate in the 2008 Canadian federal election. This poll was an online survey of 1003 American adults with a margin of error of 3.1 percent, conducted on July 14 and 15.

Even if a slim majority of all American adults supports marijuana legalization, it is likely there is not yet majority support for legalization among that all-important group of individuals: those who will cast a ballot this November. It is important to note that the poll was of all adults. As a group, all American adults tend to be noticeably younger and more liberal than “registered voters.” The group of “likely voters,” those who are expected to vote on Election Day, is, on average, older and less liberal. This discrepancy of opinion between all adults and the small subset of adults who normally vote is why registration and turnout will be so critical to the fate of Proposition 19 in California.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at