(RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Latest Gallup poll: Americans favor marijuana legalization more than ever

Americans’ support for marijuana legalization has reached a new high, the latest Gallup poll shows.

Gallup poll results released Wednesday found that 64 percent of adult survey respondents said they thought the use of marijuana should be made legal. It’s the highest total in Gallup’s nearly 50 years of posing the question.

It’s also the first time that a majority of Republican respondents favored legalization.

The Gallup survey asked the following question: “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” No distinction was made between the medical use or recreational use of cannabis.

The survey of 1,028 Americans over the age of 18 also found that 51 percent of respondents with Republican political affiliation said they supported legal marijuana. That’s up from 42 percent in 2016. Although more Democrats favored legalization — up to 72 percent from 67 percent — support fell among Independents to 67 percent from 70 percent.

“The steady increase in the support for legalized marijuana over the past 12 years, from 36 percent to 64 percent, is one of the most dramatic changes in public opinion in such a short period of time we have monitored in Gallup’s history,” Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief, said in a statement emailed to The Cannabist. “Part of the explanation lies with attitudes following the real world, as more states and jurisdictions made the decision to legalize marijuana and as that reality becomes widely known. Part lies with a general liberalizing shift in Americans’ attitudes towards a number of values issues, including same sex marriage, unwed motherhood, and teenagers having sexual relations.

“And part of the explanation could lie with the shifting demographics of the country, with the decreasing impact of older Americans, particularly those 65 and up, who are by far the least likely to approve of legalization.”

When Gallup first posed the marijuana legalization question in October 1969, only 12 percent of respondents were in favor. A whopping 84 percent sat opposed.

The levels of support slowly climbed in the decades that followed, settling in at 25 percent in the 1980s and 1990s and in the mid-30 percent range during the early 2000s.

Fourteen years ago, public opinion was an inverse image of where it’s at today: 64 percent of adults surveyed opposed marijuana legalization, 34 percent said it should be legal and 2 percent had no opinion.

Public opinion has been in step with successful marijuana legalization efforts across the United States, Gallup officials said.

In late November 2012, following the states of Colorado and Washington voting to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, the Gallup marijuana poll showed support of legalization at 48 percent. That climbed to 58 percent by October 2013.

Last year — in advance of nine states voting on legalization measures, eight of which passed — Americans favored legalization at a level of 60 percent. A Quinnipiac poll released in August showed that 61 percent of those polled agreed that “the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States.”

The Gallup poll released Wednesday was conducted Oct. 5 through 11. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.