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Changing Attitudes toward Marijuana Legalization

David Kordus October 18, 2016
Marijuana Leaves

Six years ago, a California ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use fell short of a majority—46.5% voted yes. This November, Californians will vote on Proposition 64, another marijuana legalization initiative. Since the 2010 election, four other states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and, in California, the PPIC Statewide Survey series has found increased support for legalization among likely voters and within some key groups.

In our September survey, after hearing the Proposition 64 ballot title and label, 60% of California likely voters said they would vote yes. That includes strong majorities of Democrats and independents and nearly half of Republicans.

  • Support has increased among likely voters. In response to a separate, more general question, a similar share (61%) of likely voters said that they think marijuana use should be legal. That’s a 10 point increase in support for legalization in general since September 2010, when about half of likely voters said they were in favor.
  • The partisan divide has narrowed. We have consistently found support for legalization in general to be lower among Republican likely voters than among Democrats or independents, but the gap is somewhat narrower today than it was in 2010. Then as now, at least 60% of Democratic and independent likely voters supported legalization. Among Republicans, though, support has increased from 32% in September 2010 to 45% in September of this year.
  • Support has grown among older Californians. Today, nearly three-fourths of California likely voters under age 35 favor legalization, and they are more likely than older Californians to do so—a pattern that has held since 2010. But support for marijuana legalization has increased among older Californians over the past six years. Today, nearly two-thirds of likely voters age 35 to 54 support legalization, compared to about half in 2010. A slight majority of likely voters age 55 and over are in favor today, while fewer than half favored it in 2010.

As with any election outcome, much will depend on who turns out to vote. Based on past election cycles, we can expect a larger—and younger—electorate in this presidential election year than we saw in the midterm election year of 2010. It remains to be seen, though, if Californians’ changing attitudes toward marijuana legalization will be reflected in the vote on Proposition 64.

Learn more

Read the September PPIC Statewide Survey
Visit the PPIC Statewide Survey website

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