This new Gallup poll still shows a majority of Americans think marijuana should be legal but it has garnered a lot of attention for indicating a noticeable drop since their poll last year. From Gallup:
There are only two explanations for the huge jump in support for marijuana legalization in their 2013 poll and the drop this year. The first is that something actually happened which caused a gyration in public opinion about the issue in a very short window. The second is that Gallup’s 2013 poll was simply an outlier. If you remove that poll we instead get a nice steady trend line. I would say the evidence strongly points to the latter.
There is a reason we look at the average of multiple polls whenever possible instead of a single number. No other major national poll in 2013 ever confirmed Gallup’s finding that support was as high as 58 percent. The Pew Research poll that year had support at 52 percent, the CBS News poll from January 21 had support at 51 percent, and the Washington Post poll from the same time put support at 49 percent.
On a related note, it is also worth pointing out that in this current debate the Gallup’s poll question “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal?” provides very limited value. What every major reform group is pushing for legal marijuana to be restricted to adults, tightly regulated, and taxed. That needs to be included in the poll question if you want to understand where the public really stands and how the public will likely vote on marijuana legalization ballot measures. Whenever a poll question includes the fact that legal marijuana would be regulated and taxed support is several percentage points higher.