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Poll: Four in five Illinois voters support medicinal marijuana; split on recreational use

From Illinois Business Journal news services

Voters in Illinois show overwhelming support for medicinal marijuana use, but less than half of them support legalization for recreational use, according to a new poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The sample of 1,000 registered voters was taken Feb. 15-20 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. The poll was released Monday.

When asked whether they favor or oppose legalized medicinal marijuana in Illinois, 82 percent express support for the policy. Only 16 percent oppose and 3 percent did not know or answered otherwise.

Currently there is a four-year pilot program in Illinois for the use of medical marijuana. That program is due to expire in 2018.

Overall support for medical marijuana has increased dramatically – by 19 percentage points – and opposition has been cut in half since a 2013 Institute poll asked a similar question. The 2013 poll showed 63 percent support and 32 percent opposition. The 2013 poll was taken before the current medicinal marijuana pilot program was in effect.

Support is less strong on the question of recreational marijuana. There are 51 percent who oppose legalization of recreational marijuana while 45 percent said it should be legal.

“We see clear support for medicinal marijuana, but recreational use is a mixed bag,” said David Yepsen, director of the Institute. “Medical use, recreational use, and decriminalization are all related but are still distinct public policy issues in the minds of many voters. They are likely to be issues in the debate over criminal justice reform, new revenues and public health,” he said.

Support for medicinal marijuana is strongest with younger voters. Among voters younger than 35, 90 percent favor medical use. Only 8 percent of those under 35 oppose medicinal use and 2 percent answered otherwise. On average, older voters were also supportive but not as strongly.

Younger voters are also much more supportive of legal recreational use than older voters. Among those younger than age 35, 72 percent support and 24 percent oppose. Support significantly decreases among people over 65 years old – with only 29 percent in support.

“These data show that substantial support for medical cannabis can be found in every demographic, and that support has substantially increased in the last few years. Another result to pay attention to is the heavily skewed support for recreational marijuana among millennials,” said Delio Calzolari, associate director of the Institute and one of the designers of the poll.

The poll also gauged attitudes toward gay marriage and abortion.

* On the issue of marriage equality, 53 percent stated that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry and 25 percent said same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not marry. There were 16 percent who said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships. The U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples have the right to marry in a 5-4 decision. Illinois began recognizing same-sex marriage in 2014 and civil unions in 2011.

* On the question of abortion rights, 44 percent of Illinoisans said that abortion should be legal in certain circumstances and 36 percent said that abortion should be legal in all circumstances. There were 15 percent who stated that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

The poll has tracked public opinion on those two social issues since 2009. The attached charts plot the shifts in Illinois public opinion over that time.

On Tuesday, March 8, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute will present results and analysis from the latest Simon Poll of Illinois voters. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 7 at the Varsity Center for the Arts, 418 S. Illinois Ave., Carbondale. The event is free to the public, but registration is required to Carol at (618) 453-4078.

The margin of error for the entire sample of 1,000 voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Live telephone interviews were conducted by Customer Research International of San Marcos, Texas using the random digit dialing method.

Simon Institute polling data are also archived by three academic institutions for use by scholars and the public. The three open source data repositories are: the University of Michigan’s Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, the University of North Carolina’s Odum Institute Dataverse Network and the Simon Institute Collection at OpenSIUC.

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