- 78% say drinking alcohol is morally acceptable
- 65% say smoking marijuana is morally acceptable
- Religiosity is a major factor in determining attitudes
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Large majorities of Americans believe that using substances like alcohol and marijuana are morally permissible. Specifically, 78% say drinking alcohol is morally acceptable and 65% say smoking marijuana is.
Attitudes about the morality of alcohol and marijuana items were measured for the first time in Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted May 1-10. The survey asked Americans to indicate whether they believe each of 22 different behaviors and practices are morally acceptable or morally wrong.
Alcohol and marijuana rank near the top of the list of practices Americans consider morally acceptable. Only birth control, at 91%, gets a higher percentage sanctioning it than drinking alcohol does. Smoking marijuana trails birth control, drinking alcohol and divorce (76%), but is on par with widely accepted acts including gambling, sex between an unmarried man and woman, gay or lesbian relations, stem cell research, and having a baby outside of marriage.
Americans are least likely to regard married men and women having an affair, cloning humans, polygamy and suicide as morally OK. Their opinions are most closely divided on morality of abortion -- 43% believe it is morally acceptable and 48% believe it is not.
|Morally acceptable||Morally wrong|
|Drinking alcohol ^||78||19|
|Sex between an unmarried man and woman||69||28|
|Gay or lesbian relations||67||30|
|Medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos||66||29|
|Smoking marijuana ^||65||31|
|Having a baby outside of marriage||65||32|
|The death penalty||62||33|
|Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur||60||37|
|Medical testing on animals||54||43|
|Doctor assisted suicide||54||42|
|Sex between teenagers||42||54|
|Polygamy, when a married person has more than one spouse at the same time||19||78|
|Married men and women having an affair||10||88|
|May 1-10, 2018; ^ Asked of a half sample|
Gallup's trends on many of these items date back to 2001. On most, Americans have adopted more permissive views over time. Presumably, this also applies to the new item on smoking marijuana, given the surge over the past two decades in the percentage who say that smoking the drug should be legal. In fact, the 64% who last fall said marijuana should be legal nearly matches the 65% who say smoking it is morally acceptable.
Religiosity Is Key Determinant in Views of Drinking, Smoking Marijuana
Majorities of key subgroups of Americans regard both drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana as morally acceptable, but highly religious Americans, as measured by the frequency with which they attend church, are less likely to do so. Whereas 88% of those who seldom or never attend religious services find drinking alcohol to be morally acceptable, 60% of those who attend weekly hold that view. And while three-quarters of non-attenders say smoking marijuana is OK, less than half of regular churchgoers, 41%, agree.
Other subgroup differences, including those by gender, age, race and political ideology, appear to reflect differences in church attendance among those groups. For example, nonwhites, women, older Americans and conservatives are more likely to attend church but less likely to say smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol are OK.
|Drinking Alcohol||Smoking Marijuana|
|% Acceptable||% Wrong||% Acceptable||% Wrong|
|18 to 34 years||81||18||77||21|
|35 to 54 years||78||17||61||36|
|How often attend church|
|May 1-10, 2018|
In nearly every key subgroup, a greater percentage say drinking alcohol is morally acceptable than says the same about smoking marijuana. Young adults, ideological liberals and moderates are notable exceptions, as these three groups are about equally likely to find the two practices morally acceptable. In contrast to liberals and moderates, ideological conservatives are far more likely to view drinking alcohol (75%) than smoking marijuana (47%) as acceptable moral behavior.
Most Americans do not object on moral grounds to people drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. Of the two, they are more likely to see drinking alcohol as an acceptable behavior, perhaps because it is legal in all states while smoking marijuana is not. Some states have recently legalized marijuana and many others are considering doing so, perhaps removing some of the stigma associated with the drug. But with roughly two-thirds of the public saying marijuana use is morally acceptable, it seems there will not be sufficient opposition to thwart attempts to make it legal.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 1-10, 2018, with a random sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
The results for the drinking alcohol item are based on a random sample of 542 adults and the results for the smoking marijuana item are based on a random sample of 482 adults. For results based on these samples, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.