A new poll released early Wednesday shows a majority in favor of legalizing marijuana, with younger voters strongly supportive of such a policy. The Quinnipiac University poll shows younger voters also driving growing support for same-sex marriage, on which respondents were split about evenly.
Overall, 51 percent of voters think the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States, while just 44 percent oppose legalization. Two-thirds of voters under age 30 think it should be legal, but only 35 percent of those 65 and older agree.
"It seems likely," said Quinnipiac University Polling Institute assistant director Peter Brown, "that given the better than 2-1 majority among younger voters, legalization is just a matter of time." Voters in Colorado and Washington approved initiatives last month legalizing recreational use of the drug in their states.
The issue is also subject to a wide gender gap. Men favor making marijuana legal, 59 percent to 36 percent. But only 44 percent of female voters think it should be legal, and 52 percent think it should not.
Self-identified Republicans are less likely to say marijuana should be legal, with just 31 percent in favor. Equal percentages of Democrats and independents, 58 percent, said it should be legal.
Meanwhile, 48 percent of voters support same-sex marriage, the poll shows, while 46 percent oppose it. Given the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, the difference between the two outcomes is statistically insignificant. But the poll does show a marked increase in support: Quinnipiac last tested the issue in July 2008, when only 36 percent of voters supported it, compared with 55 percent who opposed it then.
"It seems pretty clear that attitudes toward same-sex marriage in American society are changing rapidly. While the country remains split on the issue, supporters have come pretty far in the last four years," said Brown. "Since voters 18 to 29 years old support same-sex marriage 63-35 percent, once again we see it's just a matter of time."
On other issues, the poll finds strong support for the Obama administration's "policy in which young illegal immigrants who came to the country as children will be able to obtain work permits and will not face deportation." Seventy percent support that change, up from 55 percent this past July.
A plurality of voters, 47 percent, said that David Petraeus was right to resign last month as director of the Central Intelligence Agency because of an extramarital affair, while 41 percent think he should have remained in charge of the CIA.
And 41 percent of voters said that the Obama administration "deliberately misled the American people" about the events surrounding the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in September; 47 percent said the administration "shared the facts with the American people as they became available," and 12 percent said they didn't know. Voter opinions on the Benghazi incident fall largely along party lines: 76 percent of Democrats said that the administration shared the facts as they became available, and 79 percent of Republicans said that the administration misled the public. Independents were largely split.
A partisan split also surfaced on whether climate change caused superstorm Sandy. Overall, voters said it did not cause the storm, 57 percent to 37 percent. Only 14 percent of Republicans said climate change was to blame, versus 55 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of independents.
The poll of 1,949 registered voters was conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 3.