Reality Check

Pew Marijuana

Who says we live in a polity in which empiricism and common sense are always outweighed by ideology and culture war? Here’s CNN’s latest polling on pot, which closely shadows Gallup’s and Pew’s (see above):

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed thought using pot should be legal, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday night, compared with 44 percent who said it should not be. Among those aged 18 to 34, support was 67 percent to 32 percent, and for those 35 to 49 years old, it was 64 percent to 34 percent.

More details:

The biggest change indicated by the poll reflected the number of people who said smoking pot is morally wrong. In 1987, 70% said it was, making it a sin in the minds of more Americans than abortion or pornography. Now, that number has been halved – just 35% today said smoking marijuana is morally wrong.

My own view is that this is because more people have had experience with pot-smoking, have looked at the actual data and science behind it, know the enormous medical possibilities of the plant, and can’t quite muster up the (racially tinged) hysteria that kept it illegal in the first place. Plus: loads of people have at least tried it, and they haven’t become raving lunatics, as some of the more zealous Prohibitionists would have you believe. Allahpundit ponders the massive age gap:

It boils down, I think, to experimentation.

Fifty-two percent overall told CNN that they’d tried marijuana in the past. Even among the 50-64 age group, 56 percent copped to having tried it. Among seniors, just 21 percent did. That’s not surprising but it is revealing. The taboo against weed was much stronger before the 1960s, when seniors came of age. They didn’t try it, they accepted that it was banned for a good reason, and those opinions stuck. For just that reason, I’d be curious to see an even deeper subsample showing the split on this issue between younger and older Republicans specifically. GOP voters remain opposed to weed on balance but I suspect that’s more a function of the party skewing older than some firm ideological principle that Republicans of every age adhere to. In fact, when asked whether smoking weed is morally wrong, Republicans now split at a razor-thin 50/49. Given that seniors tilt heavily towards the “immoral” view, it can only mean that younger Republicans disagree.

If I were advising Republicans professionally (currently I do it out of the goodness of my heart), I’d tell them to embrace marriage equality and the end of marijuana prohibition. There are respectable conservative arguments for both (hey, Buckley was for the latter long before it was cool) – and they’d be the first conservative positions the Millennial generation might actually hear and agree with.