Uniting States of Marijuana: the country’s evolving laws on cannabis
North Carolinians overwhelmingly want to see medical marijuana legalized, according to a new Elon University poll.
Twenty-nine states have signed off on the medical use of marijuana, and a majority of North Carolina voters polled say they want their state to become the 30th – 80 percent say they approve of legalizing it. Seventeen percent of those polled opposed legalization.
Democrats and independent voters were the most likely to support medical marijuana legalization, with 83 percent approval. Republicans weren’t that far behind, with 73 percent approval.
North Carolinians polled were less likely to support legalizing recreational use of marijuana – 45 percent support it while 51 percent oppose it.
Support for legalizing recreational use was strongest with millennials, or those born since 1981, with 65 percent of those voters on board. But only 11 percent of the “Silent Generation,” or those born in 1944 or earlier, support legalizing recreational use.
More men than women support legalizing recreational use – 53 percent compared with 38 percent of women. And more Democrats approve of legalizing recreational use than Republicans – 49 percent compared with 33 percent.
In the same poll, Elon asked North Carolina voters about: the job Gov. Roy Cooper has done since taking office in January, firearms on private property, the legal smoking age, climate change, House Bill 2 and craft beer distribution.
The academic, nonpartisan poll randomly surveyed 506 registered N.C. voters April 18-21 via phone. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points with a 95 percent confidence level.
To view the entire poll, go to www.elon.edu/e/CmsFile/GetFile?FileID=850.
Nearly half (48 percent) of North Carolina voters polled said they approve of the job Cooper has done since taking office, with about 40 percent saying he is doing better than former Gov. Pat McCrory.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats think more highly of Cooper than Republicans. Among Democrats, 70 percent approve of the job he is doing compared with 24 percent of Republicans. About half of independent voters approve of him.
More than half (52 percent) of Republican voters disapprove of Cooper, compared with 11 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of independents. One in five of all voters say they don’t know whether they approve or disapprove of the job he’s doing.
“Governor Cooper is clearly enjoying a honeymoon period of public support in North Carolina,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll. “That he is 19 points net positive in an otherwise divided state gives him some leeway to use soft power even as the legal powers of the office have recently declined.”
Cooper has slightly stronger support among black voters, with 54 percent saying they approve of the job he is doing compared with 47 percent of white voters. Baby boomers – those born between 1945 and 1964 – are most likely to approve of Cooper, at 51 percent.
Democrats also were more likely than Republicans to say that Cooper is doing a better job than former Gov. Pat McCrory. About 71 percent of Democrats say Cooper is doing better than McCrory, compared with 8 percent of Republicans. Black voters were more likely to say Cooper is doing a better job than white voters, and female voters were also more likely to say Cooper is doing better than his predecessor.
“Governor McCrory had positive approval numbers very similar to Governor Cooper’s when the Elon Poll first asked about McCrory’s job performance in April 2013,” Husser said. “Governors have a tendency to become less popular over time. However, Cooper is currently in a strong position to craft a solid foundation of support in North Carolina.”
General Assembly, Congress
North Carolina voters largely disapprove of the job the state and federal legislative branches are doing, with Congress receiving lower marks than the N.C. General Assembly.
About 75 percent of voters say they disapprove of how Congress is doing its job.
The General Assembly fared better, with 54 percent of voters saying they disapprove of the job the it is doing. Democrats and black voters were more likely to disapprove, but even 38 percent of Republicans disapprove of how the legislature, which is led by members of their own party, is doing its job.
North Carolina’s U.S. Senate delegation – Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis – are not receiving strong job evaluations from North Carolina voters. Tillis wins approval from 29 percent of voters, with 37 percent disapproving of his job performance. Burr’s numbers are evenly split, with 40 percent disapproving of his job performance and 39 percent approving.
North Carolina voters polled are clear that they want their elected representatives to participate in town hall meetings with constituents on a regular basis. Among all voters, 74 percent say such meetings are “very important,” with Democrats more likely to say it is very important than Republicans. Black voters are also more likely than white voters to say town hall meetings are “very important.”
North Carolina voters polled are largely opposed to expanding the ability of gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring their firearms onto private property or college campuses.
About 74 percent of voters polled are opposed to allowing gun owners to bring firearms onto private property against the property owner’s wishes, compared with only 20 percent who favor that right.
Democrats are far more likely to oppose, at 89 percent compared with 51 percent of Republicans. About 38 percent of Republicans favor such a measure compared with 9 percent of Democrats.
Sixty-nine percent of voters polled were opposed to allowing gun owners with concealed carry permits to bring firearms on college campuses, with 24 percent in favor, and a strong divide based on political party. Among Democrats, 92 percent are opposed compared with 51 percent of Republicans. Forty-one percent of Republicans support such an idea compared with 5 percent of Democrats.
Female and black voters have the strongest opposition to firearms on campus. About 83 percent of black voters oppose such a move compared with 65 percent of white voters, and 74 percent of female voters do not think firearms should be brought on campus compared with 62 percent of male voters.
“The overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters are opposed to concealed carry permits overriding the interests of private property owners and college leaders,” Husser said.
About two-thirds of voters polled said they support raising the minimum age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products in North Carolina from 18 to 21, compared with 28 percent who oppose it. Democratic and Republican voters generally agreed on the measure. Baby boomers were most in favor of the age increase.
Raise the age
More than half of voters polled said they support increasing the legal age at which a person can be tried as an adult in criminal court. Among all voters, 55 percent say the age should be raised from 16 to 18, while 37 percent oppose the move. Democrats (63 percent) and independents (59 percent) are more likely to support the age increase than Republicans, who oppose the move by a 52 to 41 margin.
About two-thirds of voters polled said the national reputation of North Carolina is worse since it began making headlines for its passage last year of House Bill 2, the “bathroom bill” that has since been replaced.
While 65 percent said the state’s reputation is worse, 24 percent said “about the same” and 7 percent said “better.” Democrats and Republicans are split on the issue. Among Democrats, 74 percent say “worse” and 19 percent say “about the same,” compared with 49 percent of Republicans who say “worse” and 35 percent who say “about the same.”
To gauge opinions about climate change, the poll asked voters whether global warming would hurt the coast of North Carolina within the next 50 years. Nearly half (45 percent) said “very likely” while 28 percent say “somewhat likely” and 23 percent say “not at all likely.”
While 75 percent of Democrats said climate change was “very likely” to hurt North Carolina’s coastal communities within the next 50 years, 13 percent of Republicans held the same view. A plurality of Republicans – 45 percent – said such a negative impact was “not at all likely.”
Millennials were the most likely to say that a negative impact from climate change was “very likely,” while the Silent Generation is the least likely to hold that view.
How the state should regulate the distribution of beer from North Carolina’s growing craft brewing industry has been a question before the General Assembly this year. Under current law, brewers who make more than 25,000 barrels of beer annually must contract with a distributor to distribute the beer to bars, restaurants and retailers.
When asked whether that 25,000-barrel limit should be eliminated to allow brewers to self-distribute regardless of their size, 61 percent of voters said yes, while 16 percent were opposed. Millennials, male and white voters were the most likely demographic groups to support the abolition of the distribution cap, and 62 percent of Republicans support the change compared with 48 percent of Democrats.
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett