Is pot the new gay marriage?

October 22, 2013

New data out from Gallup suggests it just might be. Here’s the time trend on support for marijuana legalization:


Source: Gallup (http://www.gallup.com/poll/165539/first-time-americans-favor-legalizing-marijuana.aspx)

And here’s the time trend on support for gay marriage:


Source: Gallup (http://www.gallup.com/poll/162398/sex-marriage-support-solidifies-above.aspx)

Looks pretty similar to me (other than the fact that Gallup has oddly reversed the colors in favor of legalization). If anything the public opinion swing on marijuana legalization seems a bit more dramatic (although note the difference in the horizontal axis of the charts, with the gay marriage data being presently yearly and over a shorter time frame), suggesting that policy change could come even faster. Splits based on partisanship are almost the same in both cases — Democrats come in at 65 percent in favor marijuana legalization, 69 percent  in favor of gay marriage, while Republican support is at 35 percent  (marijuana) and 26 percent  (gay marriage) — and in both cases, there is overwhelming support among 18-29 year olds, 67 percent  of whom believe marijuana should be legal and 70 percent  of whom think gay marriage should be legal.

And just to clarify, by asking “is pot the new gay marriage?” I am referring to the previously unthinkable legalization of the policy in question spreading at unexpectedly fast rate through wide swaths of the country, not Chris Christie’s latest attempt to navigate modern Republican primary politics. Although, come to think it, there’s plenty of time before 2016, so if that does turn out to be the case for Christie in the near future, you heard it here first!

Joshua Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University. He specializes in voting, partisanship, public opinion, and protest, as well as the relationship of social media usage to all of these forms of behavior, with a focus on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
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