Smoking weed now more popular than tobacco as legalization on ballot in a number of states

Marijuana and tobacco usage trends have been going in opposite directions for a few decades now.

ByAnalysis by Harry Enten, CNN, CNNWire
Monday, August 29, 2022
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"It's the economy, stupid," Democratic operative James Carville once famously noted. Usually, that assertion holds when it comes to elections. But as we have seen from the changing political tides since Roe v. Wade was overturned, sometimes the economy takes a back seat to social issues.

Abortion, though, won't be the only major social issue on voters' minds this year. Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in a number of states, including Arkansas, Maryland and Missouri.

The chance for voters to decide whether weed should be legal comes at a time when newly released polling suggests cannabis is more popular than ever.

The high-water mark for marijuana, and the changing tides, is where we begin our weekly roundup of the political week that was.

Getting high reaches an all-time high

Every so often in polling, you get to witness a big changing-of-the-guard moment. That happened a few weeks ago when Gallup released data on marijuana and tobacco usage in the United States. Two long-term trends finally collided.

For the first time in Gallup polling, more Americans (16%) said they smoke marijuana than had smoked a tobacco cigarette (11%) in the past week.

This probably doesn't come as a major shock to those who walk the streets in my New York City neighborhood. There are stores selling cannabis paraphernalia opening up left and right, and the streets smell like what I imagine scared parents believe a rock concert smells like.

At about the time humans first landed on the moon (1969), however, the idea that marijuana would one day be more popular than cigarettes was inconceivable. A Gallup poll from that year found that just 4% of Americans admitted they had even tried marijuana, let alone smoked it regularly. Today, 48% of Americans say they have at least tried it.

That same year (1969), 40% of Americans said they had smoked cigarettes in the same week. This was the lowest percentage recorded by Gallup between 1944 and 1972 of those who said they had smoked a cigarette in the past week.

Marijuana and tobacco usage trends have been going in opposite directions for a few decades now. By 1985, nearly as many Americans said they had tried marijuana (33%) as had smoked a cigarette in the past week (35%).

Cigarette smoking has been declining ever since. By 2013, just 19% of Americans were smoking cigarettes at least once a week. Meanwhile, 38% of Americans told Gallup they had tried marijuana that year. This was the same year that 7% said they currently smoked marijuana.

The trend toward more marijuana smokers is, perhaps not surprisingly, driven by young people. The National Institutes of Health reported last week that more young adults used marijuana in 2021 than in any year prior.

Nearly a third (30%) of adult respondents under the age of 35 admitted to Gallup this year that they smoke marijuana. That's significantly higher than those aged 35-54 (16%) or 55+ (7%).

Smoking tobacco, on the other hand, isn't seen as cool. Just 8% of adults younger than 35 are smoking cigarettes at least once a week. Slightly more adults aged 35-54 (10%) or 55+ (14%) said they had.

The higher rates of marijuana smoking come with major political implications. As I have noted in the past, a record high percentage of Americans (over two-thirds, per Gallup) say they favor the legalization of recreational marijuana. Ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana have passed in blue states (e.g., New Jersey), purple states (e.g., Arizona) and red states (e.g., Montana) in recent years.

This year, we shouldn't be amazed if it passes in other blue states such as Maryland and even red states such as South Dakota. Again, this would be shocking if you had said so about 50 years ago. Only 12% were in favor of marijuana legalization in 1969. As recently as a decade ago, the country was split down the middle on marijuana legalization in Gallup polling.

The times have certainly changed.

FBI raid on Trump's home divides Americans

Speaking of things that might have been inconceivable in 1969, the FBI's search of a former president's residence continues to dominate the news. The man whose property was searched, former President Donald Trump, has cried foul about the operation.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released after the search found that 46% said that the FBI and the Justice Department had acted responsibly "following the FBI search warrant of Mar A Lago." Less than a third (29%) said they had acted irresponsibly.

This matches with other polling that found most Americans approved of the search.

A survey of only Republicans, on the other hand, yielded different results. A majority (54%) said the FBI and the DOJ had acted irresponsibly. Nearly the same percentage of Republicans (53%) said Trump had acted responsibly. Among all Americans, just 32% believed Trump has acted responsibly in the matter compared with 42% who said irresponsibly.

We see the same trend on the question of whether there should be more investigations. An NBC News poll released last week found that 57% of Americans want the investigations into Trump to continue. That dips to a mere 21% among Republicans polled.

Indeed, Republicans are, for now, sticking by Trump, no matter what is thrown his way. He retains about 50% of support in national polls of a hypothetical 2024 GOP presidential primary. This support has remained the same for a year and a half, and it's a record for any nonincumbent Republican at this point in the run-up to a presidential primary.

Americans, as a whole, see things very differently. Trump's net favorability ratings (favorable minus unfavorable) have gotten worse during the past few months. He's gone from about a net favorability of -6 points in late March to closer to an average of -13 points in net favorability today.

With recent polling showing an incline in Biden's popularity, Trump is currently the most unpopular living person to ever be president.

Whether that ultimately keeps Republicans from nominating him in 2024 is one of the biggest questions in electoral politics. For now, many Republicans seem intent on nominating him in spite of the broader public's dislike of him.

For your brief encounters: College football is underway

On a totally different topic, college football season began Saturday. According to an Ipsos KnowledgePanel poll from 2021, 35% of Americans considered themselves fans of the sport. That's higher than every other sport tested, except for pro baseball (38%) or pro football (51%).

You may not realize the popularity of the game if you live in the Northeast, where a mere 25% are fans of the game. College football is much more popular in the Midwest (41%) and the South (40%).

The Southern powerhouse of Alabama is also the most searched-for team on Google in the last month. That said, who people search for is highly dependent on where they are in the country. The most searched-for team in the vast majority of states was a team other than Alabama.

Leftover data

Online grocery shopping is here to stay: A record-high 28% of Americans told Gallup in 2022 that they ordered groceries online for either pickup or delivery in the past month. That's up from 11% in 2019. Age plays a role here, as just 16% of those age 55 and older ordered groceries online.

A big racial divide on living with your parents: Thirty-six percent of adults say young adults living with their parents is a bad thing for society. According to the Pew Research Center, a plurality (47%) said it doesn't make a difference, while only 16% believed it is a good thing. There's a racial or ethnic divide, though. Many White adults (41%) said it is a bad thing, while fewer Asian American (23%), Black (26%) and Hispanic (28%) adults said the same.

Crypto pains: Pew found that a mere 16% of adults have been involved with cryptocurrency. Among that 16%, a plurality (46%) said their investments did worse than expected. Just 15% said they did better than expected.