Virginians Favor Legalizing Medical Marijuana, UMW Survey Shows

By a margin of more than two-to-one, Virginians believe that the use of marijuana for medical purposes should be legal under federal law, according to a new survey sponsored by the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

Of the 1,001 state residents surveyed Sept. 25-29, 71 percent said that the use of medical marijuana with a prescription should be legalized, with 23 percent believing that it should remain illegal and the rest were unsure.

In a recent poll, 71 percent of Virginians said that the use of medical marijuana with a prescription should be legalized. Image from

In a recent poll, 71 percent of Virginians said that the use of medical marijuana with a prescription should be legalized. Image from

Results from the same poll released earlier by the Center also showed that 42 percent of the likely voters in the upcoming Virginia election favor Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor, while 35 percent favor of Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The UMW survey also showed that, by more than 15-to-one margin, Virginians who have heard about the scandal involving Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and a wealthy donor believe that the governor, not the taxpayers, should pay for his legal defense.

Virginia has not taken steps to legalize medical marijuana. The District of Columbia and Maryland, as well as more than a dozen other states, have approved their own medical marijuana laws. A proposed federal medical marijuana initiative has received little support on Capitol Hill.

Responses to the questions varied greatly by age. Just over half (53 percent) of voters 65 years of age and older favored legalization of medical marijuana, compared to 71 percent in the 45-54 age group, 73 percent in the 30-44 age group, and 84 percent in the 18-30 age group.

The question obtained majority support among all partisan groups. Among Republicans surveyed, 55 percent agreed with federal legalization of medical marijuana, as did 75 percent of independent and 80 percent of Democrats.

Around the state, support for the measure was highest in Tidewater, with 79 percent support, and in Northern Virginia, with 77 percent support. In south central Virginia, the measure generated 72 percent support, compared to 68 percent in northwest Virginia and 57 percent in the state’s western region.

No real gender gap is apparent on the question, with 73 percent of men and 70 percent of women favoring federal legalization of medical marijuana.

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Among African-Americans, 79 percent favored the measure, compared to 70 percent of whites and Latinos.

In the survey’s other policy-related findings:

  • By a margin of 53 percent to 41 percent, Virginians said the state should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples who are married in a state where gay marriage is legal.
  • By a margin of 59 percent to 31 percent, state residents said the state should expand access to health care for low-income, uninsured state residents.  That proposal is part of the Affordable Care Act, though the law was not mentioned by name in the question.
  • By a margin of 52 percent to 42 percent, voters opposed a one-year increase in the normal retirement age, from 67 to 68, to help reduce the budget deficit. A two-year increase in the retirement age, to 69, was opposed by Virginians 59 percent to 38 percent in UMW’s March 2013 survey.
  • By a margin of 57 percent to 32 percent, Virginians said they favored a law that would tie the federal minimum wage to inflation. (The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.)
  • Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed said that they believed the economy has been getting worse over the past year, compared to 35 percent in UMW’s March survey. A total of 33 percent say the economy has been improving, the same as in the March survey.


The Fall 2013 Virginia Survey, sponsored by University of Mary Washington (UMW), obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,001 adults living in Virginia. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (501, including 214 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were done in English by Princeton Data Source from September 25 to 29, 2013. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 3.5 percentage points.

UMW Survey Topline