Majority of Illinois voters support medical marijuana, but oppose recreational use

Kevin HoffmanReboot Illinois

Mar 07, 2016

While four in five voters in Illinois support the legalization of medical marijuana, more than half are opposed to legalizing pot for recreational use, according to a new poll.

The poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University found 82 percent of voters support legal medical marijuana while just 16 percent said they’re opposed. But when asked about legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes, voters were split, with 51 percent against and 45 percent in favor.

“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.”

Voter support for medical marijuana has increased by 19 percentage points since the Simon Institute last conducted a similar poll in 2013. At the time, 63 percent of voters polled said they supported the policy while 32 percent were opposed. Legal sales of cannabis to approved patients began on Nov. 9 as part of the state’s four-year medical marijuana pilot program.

The Simon Institute found support for medical marijuana to be strongest among voters under the age of 35, with 90 percent in favor. Additionally, 72 percent of younger voters said they support legalizing pot for recreational use, compared to just 29 percent of voters over the age of 65.

“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 looked at voters’ attitudes toward same-sex marriage and abortion. When asked which statement is closest to their position on legal rights of gay and lesbian couples, 53 percent said they should be allowed to marry; 25 percent said they should be allowed to form civil unions but not marry; and 16 percent said there should be no legal recognition of relationship between same-sex couples.

(Click image to enlarge)

Marriage Equality

As for the question over abortion rights, 36 percent said it should be legal in all circumstances, 44 percent said legal in certain circumstances and 15 percent illegal in all circumstances.


The Simon Institute conducted the poll from a sample of 1,000 registered voters between Feb. 15-20. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

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