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Liberals Back Legalization; Conservatives Oppose: Survey

“Both sides” arguments may have increasing merit. But more conservatives than liberals oppose legalization.

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It seems obvious, on the face of it. Those who tend towards the liberal end of the political spectrum have always also tended to favor marijuana legalization. And those who lean conservative have tended to oppose weed. Over and over, with the mainstreaming of Cannabis, we hear “both sides” arguments, and they have increasing merit. But the bottom line is, those who are most conservative in the American political landscape — still, after all these years — oppose marijuana.

Most folks know there’s growing bipartisan support for legalization in the USA, points out Marijuana Moment. And a newly released survey from the Pew Research Center shows broad consensus across ideological lines that patients should be able to legally access marijuana for medical purposes. But when it comes to adult-use, “recreational” legalization, that coalition doesn’t entirely hold.

The poll, simply stated, shows Democrats are more likely to support full Cannabis legalization than are Republicans. Pew placed respondents in one of nine political cohorts across the spectrum. This highlighted that opinions on pot policy can vary, even among those who share sociopolitical beliefs.

Partisan Polarization Remains Strong

“Partisan polarization remains the dominant, seemingly unalterable condition of American politics,” Pew noted in its report. “Republicans and Democrats agree on very little—and when they do, it often is in the shared belief that they have little in common,” Pew said. “Yet the gulf that separates Republicans and Democrats sometimes obscures the divisions and diversity of views that exist within both partisan coalitions—and the fact that many Americans do not fit easily into either one.”

Cannabis itself provides an illustrative example.

Recent polls found a growing percentage of Republicans embracing Cannabis. The survey offers insights into where that support comes from. It’s mainly from the so-called Ambivalent Right, the youngest conservative group. These young conservatives back medical and recreational legalization at 60 percent.

People in the Ambivalent Right “hold conservative views about the size of government, the economic system and issues of race and gender. But they are the only group on the political right in which majorities favor legal abortion and say marijuana should be legal for recreational and medical use.”

‘Faith and Flag’ Conservatives Don’t Like Ganja

The Ambivalent Right is the only conservative cohort supporting legalization, according to Pew.

That’s the only right-leaning group expressing majority support for adult-use and medical marijuana legalization. But two of the others—the Populist Right and Committed Conservatives—are just under the 50 percent mark.

The exception is the “Faith and Flag Conservatives,” only 33 percent of whom favor full legalization.

People in that benighted group “are intensely conservative in all realms,” the report drily notes. “[T]hey are far more likely than all other typology groups to say government policies should support religious values and that compromise in politics is just ‘selling out on what you believe in.’”

But despite the deep conservative beliefs of this group, 47 percent still said cannabis should be legal for medicinal use. By contrast, only 19 percent said weed should be totally illegal.

Committed Conservatives, Populist Right Evenly Divided

Committed Conservatives and the Populist Right, contrasted to Faith and Flag folks, are fairly evenly divided on cannabis legalization.

Those defined as Committed Conservatives “express conservative views across the board, but with a somewhat softer edge.”

With respect to marijuana, 44 percent said it should be legal for any use. Fory-three percent believe Cannabis should only be legalized for medical purposes.

The Populist Right are conservatives with lower education levels; they are likely to live in rural locales. The poll found that 45 percent of people in this group back adult-use and medical legalization. Forty-four percent said only medical marijuana should be legal.

Just 11 percent of respondents from each of those two categories support complete marijuana prohibition.

Stressed Sideliners, centrists with low political engagement and a “mix of conservative and liberal views,” support ending prohibition at 62%.

On the left side of the spectrum, there was majority support for Cannabis among every typography of Democratic-leaning respondents. The Progressive Left backed full legalization at 91 percent. Democratic Mainstays, meanwhile, support reform at 65 percent.

Mainstays are “the largest Democratic-oriented group, as well as the oldest on average,” Pew noted. The Progressive Left, meanwhile, “have very liberal views on virtually every issue and support far-reaching changes to address racial injustice and expand the social safety net.”

Seventy percent of Establishment Liberals, with progressive views but less supportive of sweeping change, support adult-use and medical marijuana legalization. And 73 percent of the Outsider Left feel the same. That group is “very liberal in most of their views, but they are deeply frustrated with the political system—including the Democratic Party and its leaders.”

The survey was based on interviews with 5,109 Americans from April 5-11 and incorporated into a broader survey released this month.

Sixty percent of respondents favor broad legalization, 31 percent support medical marijuana legalization and just 8 percent say Cannabis should be prohibited altogether.

This is the just latest in a series of polls showing most Americans are ready to end Cannabis prohibition.