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University of Iowa News Release


Dec. 7, 2010

Hawkeye Poll: public opinion favors legalization of marijuana for medical purposes

As the legalization of marijuana becomes a salient policy issue in many states, public opinion largely favors the adoption of such policies when marijuana is used for medical purposes.

According to a national University of Iowa poll released today, 65 percent of those sampled said they favored legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. This support appears to be widespread. A majority of Democrats (69 percent), Republicans (57 percent) and Independents (77 percent) favor medical marijuana. A majority of people in each age group also supports this; interestingly, support seems to increase in the older age groups. “This increase in support may reflect a perception of greater need for medical marijuana as a person ages,” said Thomas Arce, a UI undergraduate student involved with the poll.

Topline data is available at:

While support for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is quite high, support for legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes is low. Only 30 percent of respondents were in favor of legalized recreational marijuana. Here, opposition to recreational marijuana was widespread, with 40 percent of Democrats supporting this policy change, 16 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Independents. Support for recreational marijuana was also low in every age group, with a majority of respondents in every age group opposed. However, one group that did have a majority of support for legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes was liberals. Of those who self-identified as liberal 57 percent favored legalizing recreational marijuana.

How the government handles the issue also affects the decision about whether or not a respondent favors legalizing marijuana. Of those who favor legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, 54 percent believe that state governments should be handling the issue. A plurality, 43 percent, of those who oppose this type of legalization want the federal government to handle it. A similar pattern emerges when asked about the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes; 54 percent of those who favor it chose state governments, while 41 percent of those who oppose it chose the federal government. According to Amanda Keller, a UI graduate student in political science involved with the poll, “People who support legalizing marijuana seem to recognize that state governments may be their best avenue for adoption of such policies.”

However, this may not be a salient issue for many people. When asked how important the issue of legalizing marijuana was to their vote in the Nov. 2, 2010, election a plurality -- 47 percent -- said it was unimportant, while only 29 percent said it was very important.

Of the 1,458 participants, 28 percent were Democrat, 33 percent Republican and 29 percent Independent. Forty-six percent considered themselves moderate, while 16 percent self-identified as liberal and 36 percent as conservative. Reported results are weighted by state population and age. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.5 percent. The poll was conducted from Nov. 3-11, 2010.

The poll was conducted by the Hawkeye Poll Cooperative, comprised of UI faculty, graduate students in political science and 10 undergraduate students enrolled in an independent study class through the Department of Political Science. The poll is with the cooperation and facilities of the Iowa Social Science Research Center, directed by UI Sociology Professor Kevin Leicht. Faculty adviser for the poll is UI Associate Professor of Political Science Frederick Boehmke. The poll is a teaching, research and service project of the UI Department of Political Science. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost fund the poll.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Amanda Keller, 319-335-2319 (office), 319-541-7364 (cell); Kelli Andresen, University News Services, 319-384-0044,; Frederick Boehmke, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2342 (office), 716-866-9277 (cell),