MTSU Poll: Tenn. open to medical marijuana use, no...

MTSU Poll: Tenn. open to medical marijuana use, not gay marriage

Tennesseans oppose legalizing marijuana generally but appear willing to allow medical marijuana use, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

The poll also found:

  • a solid 64 percent majority of state residents oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally; and
  • 52 percent support forbidding the enforcement in Tennessee of federal-level firearms laws and leaving firearms regulated solely by state and local laws.

 Additionally, the poll measured attitudes toward abortion, further restricting access to pseudoephedrine, allowing grocery stores to sell wine, and repealing the new federal healthcare law.

Conducted Jan. 23-26, the scientifically valid poll of 600 randomly selected Tennessee adults has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.

Marijuana use breakdown

Dr. Ken Blake

Dr. Ken Blake

“The poll underscores the importance of distinguishing between support for permitting general marijuana use and support for permitting medical marijuana use,” said Ken Blake, director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University.

“When we simply asked Tennesseans whether they thought the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not, 33 percent said it should be made legal, 57 percent said it should remain banned, and the rest weren’t sure,” Blake said.

“But then we followed up by asking that same 57 percent whether adults should be allowed to use doctor-prescribed marijuana for medical purposes. Nearly two-thirds of them said yes.

medical marijuana-1“When you sort everyone out, you end up with 33 percent saying marijuana use should be allowed in general, 36 percent saying marijuana use should be allowed only for medical purposes, and 18 percent saying marijuana use should remain entirely banned, even for medical purposes. Another 6 percent are undecided about a general ban but would permit medical use, and the rest say they aren’t sure.”

Attitudes toward marijuana legalization break sharpest along religious lines, with a 40 percent plurality of self-described evangelical Christians supporting a ban on all except medical uses and a 48 percent plurality of non-evangelicals favoring legalization of marijuana use in general.

Divisions along party lines are less pronounced, but still significant, with a 45 percent plurality of Democrats favoring general legalization, a 44 percent plurality of Republicans supporting a ban on all but medical uses, and independents splitting nearly evenly between general legalization and allowing only medical uses. About a quarter or fewer in each party favor a total ban.

“It’s hard to say whether proponents of allowing general marijuana use and proponents of allowing only medical marijuana use would be willing to join forces politically,” Blake said. “But one thing is clear: Proponents of continuing the absolute ban on marijuana use are substantially outnumbered in Tennessee.”

Majority opposition to same-sex marriage continues

Meanwhile, 64 percent of Tennesseans oppose “allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally,” a level statistically the same as the 62 percent opposition seen in the Spring 2013 MTSU Poll. Only 26 percent favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, and the rest aren’t sure.

Here again, religion makes the biggest difference, with 77 percent of evangelical Christians opposed and 16 percent in favor compared to 36 percent opposed and 51 percent in favor among non-evangelicals.same-sex-marriage

Fully 68 percent of Tennesseans in the current poll identify themselves as evangelical Christians, while 26 percent do not, and the rest don’t know.

Most oppose enforcing federal gun laws

A 52 percent majority of state residents favor “forbidding the enforcement of any federal-level firearm laws in Tennessee, leaving firearms regulated solely by state and local laws,” the poll found. Thirty-two percent oppose the idea, and 3 percent volunteered that they would like to do away with all gun laws. Thirteen percent didn’t know or gave no answer.

Support for the idea has the most traction in the non-Nashville areas of Middle Tennessee, where 64 percent of residents express support compared to about 47 percent elsewhere in the state, including Nashville. State Senate and House representatives whose districts are in Middle Tennessee have proposed legislation that would make it illegal to enforce federal gun laws in the state.

Other findings:gun-control

      • Abortion. Fifty-one percent of Tennesseans think abortion should be “legal only under certain circumstances.” Another 12 percent think it should be “legal under any circumstances,” and 32 percent think it should be “illegal in all circumstances.”
      • Pseudoephedrine. A 64 percent majority favor “requiring that Tennesseans get a doctor’s prescription before buying more than about 10 days’ worth of allergy or cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, which can be used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine.” Twenty-seven percent are opposed, and the rest aren’t sure.
      • Wine sales in grocery stores. Sixty-three percent favor “letting grocery, convenience and other stores that sell food in Tennessee sell wine if they are located in places that allow the sale of alcoholic beverages.” Twenty-six percent are opposed, and the rest aren’t sure.
      • Repeal of the health care law. Thirty-one percent would like to see Congress repeal the new federal healthcare law and not replace it. Another 22 percent want the law repealed and replaced with a Republican alternative, 13 percent would like the law expanded, and 11 percent would like the law kept as it is. Twenty-one percent don’t know.

— Dr. Ken Blake (, Dr. Jason Reineke (