The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Support for legalizing marijuana fell in the past year, though a majority are still on board, Gallup finds

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After reaching a 44-year high last year, support for legalizing pot dropped seven points, according to a new Gallup poll.

A majority still supports the idea, with 51 percent of Americans in favor of legalization. That level of support is right around the 50 percent recorded in 2011 and 2012, but down from the record 58 percent recorded last year. The Gallup results are in line with a similar seven-point drop recorded by a Public Religion Research Institute poll in September and suggest that the legalization movement may be relegated to the coasts unless and until it can muster more support.

The big divides in support for legalization by ideology and region suggest that, for now at least, the prospects of Southern and Midwestern states legalizing pot are dim, though the long-term trend is on the side of advocates, Gallup notes:

As long as support hovers around the 50% mark, it will be difficult for proponents to promote legalization beyond the more Democratic and liberal-oriented states. The South and Midwest are likely to remain less hospitable, at least for the time being. But with a super-majority of younger Americans supportive – 64% of those aged 18 to 34, contrasted with 41% of those 55 and older — it seems inevitable that this will eventually change.

More than 1 million voters — most of them in Oregon — approved legalization in Alaska, Oregon and D.C. on Tuesday.

The poll was conducted in mid-October, in the run-up to the successful votes for legalization in Alaska, Oregon and D.C. and could have been affected by the related debate. Also, last year’s vote came before Colorado or Washington had implemented their legalization laws. Resulting concerns — particularly related to edibles in Colorado — may have affected support for those on the edge.