The pot legalization gender gap

Scott Sumner directs us to this passage from Michele Martinez Campbell:

A fascinating new national poll from Quinnipiac University shows that men and women disagree markedly on the question of marijuana legalization.  While men surveyed strongly favor legalization by a margin of 59 to 36 percent, women oppose it by a clear majority of 52-44 percent.  This 15-point gender gap in support for marijuana legalization –let’s call it the “pot gender gap” — is not quite as large as the 20-point gender gap in support for President Obama in the 2012 presidential election, but it is striking.  What’s most interesting, though, is how it confounds the expectations set by the voting gender gap.  In voting, women trend more liberal and Democratic, while men trend more conservative and Republican.  Yet with the pot gender gap, we see women taking the more conservative, law-and-order approach.

The article is here, Scott’s post, with commentary, is here.


It's not called "nanny state" for nothing.

Exactly. It is women consistently trying to control others to maintain their comfort zone.

I've noticed this anecdotally. Female friends who are themselves HUGE potheads, some having used much stronger and more dangerous substances think they should stay illegal. Male friends definitely want pot legalized and are much more likely to support total drug decriminalization. Even the ones who never used anything.

Men are the ones who have to buy it, a transaction which would be vastly improved if pot were legal.

I have no evidence but I wouldn't be surprised if the rates of incarceration for drug related crimes are much higher for men. It would be interesting to look at incarceration rates against support for legalisation for various demographics (age/race/gender), preferably controlling for level of usage.

A more obvious explanation would be the difference in marijuana use. 47% of men and 30% of women report having tried marijuana.

dan, stop making sense!

Women are generally not logical, nor has extension of the franchise to them improved liberty.

Generally speaking, Is the use of mind altering substances logical?

Today I learned that only observant Mormons can be counted on to be logical.

Note that, contrary to the article, the pot gender gap is much larger than the Obama gender gap. If you call the Obama gender gap 20%, then the pot gender gap is 31%. If you call the pot gender gap 15%, then the Obama gender gap is 10%. They only succeeded in describing the Obama gender gap as larger by changing the basis of calculation of the two gaps.

Right, this is a common source of confusion because you can discuss exit poll gaps in either Single or Double fashion, and Scott used the more sensible Single fashion to look at the pot question, then repeated what somebody else had said on the 2012 gender gap who had used the sensationalist Double method.

In my analyses, I try to use only the Single method because it's less likely to cause confusion and over-excited confusion than the Double method.

Women were the pivotal force behind the temperance movement and prohibition as well.

When you notice that the primary effect of alcohol and marijuana is to make men useless, you can easily understand why women are more opposed to them.

It was not so much that they were useless under alcohol, but that they were violent, and would also spend coin needed to feed the family on the demon alcohol.
Pot doesn't make the users violent, and is significantly cheaper (in part because there are no bars with high markups for individual bits of pot - it is sold in bulk).
I'd think it is much more about 'the children' for pot, that mothers are more strongly opposed to children using it.

Right on! The drug prohibition propaganda (massively relied by popular culture) has been targeting mothers for decades, with the myth that dealers are out there after their kids.
Meanwhile I'm a bit surprised to find so much misoginia in the comments.

Really? First time reading the comments here?

@TheOtherJim are you in favor of Alcohol Prohibition?

It is no accident of history that Prohibition and Womens Sufferage were passed within a couple years of each other. It is believed Prohibition movements helped organization women voting right groups.

Again, writers seem to be taking that liberals are X and conservatives are Y. Alaska passed the pot legalization and they are among the redest states (Palin! anybody) in the country. It is more likely that many men tend to be libertarian than conservative.

Mainly because drunk men were beating the shit out of them, and law enforcement hardly considered that a crime.

i think you are on to something there. Contrary to some of the rabbit trails many of the commenters are going down, seems like a difference of risk tolerance to me, rather than conservative/liberal.

This accords with my experience (and I believe I can speak for almost all of my high school and college friends, male and female) as a member of the Pioneer Pot Cadre (ca. 1965). Guys get stoned, girls get bored with stoned guys.

Discussed this a few times with a Peace Corp vet turned writer, author Michael Maren (The Road to Hell, very early and good on the crippling effects of foreign aid on the countries it was meant to help). He found a similarity to men in Somalia, who generally organize their days around their daily kat consumption, and the resulting peaks and valleys. Kat is also a stimulant, however, which can spur productivity when the buzz state passes; piracy and banditry are natural late-kat behaviors.

Being a bit older than Mike, I already had Cheech and Chong to cite. The literature (see Zap Comics, in particular Flakey Foont) supports a natural oscillation of supply and demand, and rise and fall of economic activity in pot communities.

I stopped smoking as many do, junior year in college, when it became clear it was not conducive to getting a girl, or a life.But the lifestyle, and the jokes, will be a source of mirth forever.

Good to see a Zap Comics reference here. +1 to your story, though in my case I started, and then stopped, smoking relatively later.

Don Wallace: Is it impossible to use pot in moderation?

It is hard enough to get the man to take out the trash when he isn't stoned.

TC, ever the ironist, often quotes paragraphs laden with unexamined assumptions and unsupported assertions. For example, the woman lawyer who wrote this article supposes there is a paradox in men wanting law & order, wanting marijuana, and wanting marijuana to be legal.

"TC, ever the ironist" Yes, and it is surprising how many readers seem to miss this.

much "unexamined" stuff

this suddenly "striking" poll is 2 years old.... and its margin of error negates all the grand conclusions

highly doubtful any irony was intended; plus, irony and subtlety are very difficult to communicate via blog/text format anyway

Yes decriminalization of a substance which produces laziness and discourages work is likely to lead to petty crime as people resort to alternative means to acquire money for pot. Just because pot isn't addictive doesn't mean that a lot of peope don't resort to crime in order to pay for weed. Yea they aren't as bad as crack heads, but that doesn't mean they are harmless.

I do not think that this is the case. Pot is weed, it grows under almost any conditions. In a free market, the price would be quite low - probably on par with beer, if not lower. How many people, including lazy bums, have to resort to petty crime in order to pay for beer?

Decriminalization is not the same as allowing people to grow weed. Maybe in you ideal scenario you would be right, but I kind of doubt it. The kind of stuff you can grow on a window sill just won't compare with the more THC laden strains. And the thing about pot heads is the tend to want what they want kind of ignoring trade offs.

Tobacco is pretty difficult to grow and yet, it's not really that expensive sans taxes.

The THC laden strains are an even better deal, because you don't need as much to get the same high. One hit will do you.

I see you've never met someone with alcoholism so debilitating they can't hold a steady job.

Homeless alcoholics stealing beer is so common it's practically in its own category of crime - however, rarely does anyone steal items to sell for money for beer like they do for heroin and pills, and I've never heard of anyone stealing to feed their marijuana addiction. However, there are lots of people who get caught stealing and plead poverty, but apparently have used their money to buy marijuana. Not sure what to make of it.

Actually, weed is already cheaper than alcohol in many places despite being illegal.

I dunno. The whole thing smacks of effort.

Based solely on production cost at scale, marijuana would cost about as much as other agriculturals, which is to say very little indeed. I've heard estimates that the price would be less than sugar, which even with price controls costs so little that it is often given away. It's pretty much guaranteed that the price of marijuana (like alcohol, tobacco, and soft drinks) will be almost entirely taxes and marketing, not production.

The political tipping point will come when cotton farmers in the south realize how big the market is for hemp. It's an extremely useful plant and the U.S. is the only country in the world to have outlawed it.

Stoner+gun = bad idea! (and bad shot)

Drunk + gun = worse idea (all the bad of stoner with a gun + aggression)

Women's Christian Temperance Union

This was the single largest reason it took so long to get women's suffrage.

Of course the only suffragette who wasn't for Temperance has been written out of history. Abigail Scott Duniway who got women the vote in Washington state 1883, restored it in Utah 1895, Idaho 1896, Montana 1912, and Oregon 1914 is completely ignored despite the fact that Washington was the second state after after Wyoming, with Utah 2nd, Idaho 4th, Montana 6th, and Oregon 7th to grant suffrage.

What was her crime? She actively opposed the WCTU, and prevented Susan B Anthony's NAWSA from campaigning in the Pacific Northwest.

She would go into mining and timber camps and recruit all the prostitutes, showgirls, etc... And use them to convince the men she wasn't going to take away alcohol and impose morals legislation. She even had campaigners take oaths to oppose temperance.

You would think this would make her ripe for rediscovery today.

That does sound interesting - and thank you for your part in publicizing her!

Thanks for the history lesson.

Quick google comes up with a NORML report done by someone at George Mason that has this stat that seems relevant: "Overall females are 51% of the population, 40% of annual users, and 14% of marijuana possession arrests."

Pot ruins more men's lives than women's. Discuss.

"Pot ruins more men’s lives than women’s. Discuss."

That might explain some of the difference, but no all of it. The numbers are too large. I've never smoked, probably never will, but don't see any reason for it to be illegal.

"Pot ruins more lives than women."


Only anecdotal, but the female pot smokers I knew were A students. Not so with the men. I suspect, if generally true, that there is some self-selection effect going on.

Men whose lives were likely to be mediocre at best are much more likely to smoke a lot of pot would be my guess.

Anecdotal, and therefore worthy of being ignored: my experience is that most of the men ruining their lives with pot (and I have a couple I supervise right now) steadfastly do not think it is ruining their lives. Whereas every woman I have known who was a heavy user quit or substantially cut back in recognition that they wanted a better life, or they were worried about the effects on a pregnancy.

Likewise I have known some fathers who were fine teaching their sons to drink and/or smoke pot. I have never known a mother, even those who drink and/or smoke, think that was a good idea. Make of it what you will.

Meanwhile, in Chicago this week voters supported giving the City authority to prevent medical marijuana dispensaries in their neighborhoods. Advisory NIMBY.

Perhaps concern for her young children influences a woman's views on pot legalization more than a man's views are similarly influenced?

Perhaps--not grasping that contact with the criminal justice system and/or business dealings in the black market poses a much higher risk of screwing up their kids futures than legal pot would do.

So because your kids are mentally limited pot heads dumb enough to get caught with pot that means that mine are too? The causal user busted for pot is a complete creation of weed activists. The lazy slacker kid uninterested in anything but weed and Family Guy is all too ubiquitous. The second option is an infinitely greater threat than a weed arrest for a high IQ with good parents.

A rational parent would be begging for his kid to get arrested if that's what it takes to set him straight, rather than live on indefinitely as a wasteoid loser.

So on the one hand, there's really no risk arrest for pot-using kids from good (e.g. 'white') families, but on the other hand, the risk of arrest is what's supposed to the kids away from pot?

Are conservatives really such lousy, ineffective parents that they require the heavy hand of the state to criminalize bad habits they worry their kids might get into? Even when the majority of people who ever take up the bad habit never come to any harm from it? And even when the criminalization has terrible, terrible side effects (organized crime, gang violence, midnight SWAT raids, and warrantless wiretapping here and corrupting and undermining of governments and in poor neighboring countries)? All that for some hypothetical marginal reduction in the probability your own kid will become a pot-head? Shameful.

Look at the Oregon exit polling:

Support for Legalization:
Married Men: 49%
Married Women: 47%
Single Men: 68%
Single Women: 62%

Being married is correlated with reduced support for legalized pot. This effect is steeper among men than women.

Yup, I'm married and against it. One of your big fears as a parent is that your kid will make friends with the stoner crowd.

Why is that a fear? I guess having a kid is the same as getting a lobotomy.

Yeah, what parent wouldn't be proud of an underachieving slacker who's doing nothing with his life?

But why are you confident that criminalizing pot will prevent that? After all, there are stoners in American high schools now without legalization. And why accept the extra risk of having your children being arrested and associating with (sometimes violent) black-markeet drug networks? I know lots of successful people, and virtually all smoked at one point. I'm sure you know that our last 3 presidents, at least, were pot smokers when they were young. Would you support a return to prohibition to reduce the small probability of your kids growing up to be alcoholics?

I smoked pot in college too, but luckily never fell in with the stoner crowd. I've known enough people who can't hold down a job and need to take serotonin boosters.

Speaking as a parent (and thus I do not factor in the joy of listening to Pink Floyd while stoned into the equation), it's all about the tradeoffs. The cost of getting caught versus the elasticity of demand.

So you're worried your kid isn't as smart as you were, and you need the cops to get your back?

Yeah, let's ruin people's lives so I can feel like a "good" parent.

You're disgusting.

How are you any better? You want to increase the risk of his children being exposed to weed so you can smoke pot. There's a reason successful socities defer to parents over the libertene appetites of singles. Yea let's thread the street with pot so I can forget the banality of mid-level tech job for a few hours.

Haha. The risk that a child will be "exposed to weed" nears 100% in just about any American town.

"Won't somebody please think of the children?"

Hint: the stoner crowd's main problem isn't usually that they smoke a lot of pot.

You need to use the power of the state to keep your kids from running with the wrong crowd?

Newsflash: you're a shitty parent.

A big part of most women's job is telling offspring that they can't have fun, and this part is very actively selected for.

Paleontological evidence suggests that it has been actively selected since the beginning of the Cretaceous 145 mya, which makes it older than flowering plants. I suspect the selection has been active in the mammal lineage since before the end Permian extinction, more than 250 million years ago, which makes it older than dinosaurs.

This is either a brilliant troll or really really dumb.

This guy missed his calling writing lines for Cliff on cheers.

Literally laughed out loud.

My Dad sold a joke to Jack Benny once, that and Paddy Chayefsky owing him 10 bucks were the two coolest things about him.

He told me to always take credit.

RoyL, you simply have to reveal the joke he sold...

The Marriage Gap is almost always larger than the Gender Gap, but the media has only recently come around to occasionally mentioning that fact. In 2012, the Marriage Gap was much bigger than the Gender Gap. In 2014, the Marriage Gap was only sizably bigger than the Gender Gap.

Marriage Gap /= War on Women => Report Gender Gap

This would explain why it feels like pot does not feel like an issue either political party appears to feel very stronly about. Republicans cannot afford to give up their lead with male voters by taking a strictly anti-pot stance as they have on abortion. Democrats, likewise, have a lead with women voters they would not want to decrease by becoming the party of legalization.

This would seem to be a precious issue that could truely be bipartisan and buck the trend of increasing partisanship.

It's becoming one of those issues where you can "favor" or "oppose" legalization on a survey, but in reality the answer might be "I really don't care one way or the other."

Yet all those pot legalization ballots keep seeming to pass. Interestingly, they rarely seem to pass via politicians. Instead it is always direct ballot.

I think you're on to something here. The percentage of people who care deeply about this issue seems to be fairly small. I think the main issue that Boonton is touching on is that the percentage who are dead set against pot legalization is getting smaller as that contingent ages and passes on.

Alot of the surprise over this finding, if there really is that much surprise, is the usual confusion about how American politics works.

People, both Americans and non-Americans, seem to want to put the Democrats and Republicans on some ideological spectrum where either the Republicans are the small "c" conservative party (in other words, the defender of institutions and traditions) and Democrats favor expanding traditonal liberties. There simply has never been a point in American history when this has been true. The idea that it has is trying to impose political spectrums that have existed in other countries on the US.

To the extent to which the two American parties do line up on these spectrums, take a look at where the blue parts of the US are and who first settled them historically.

Outisde the US, historically women have tended to be more likely to support the small "c" conservative party, and to a lessor degree more likely to support nanny state policies. This is perfectly consistent with women being more likely to support prohibition of mind altering drugs.

Yet another reason women should be less involved in politics.

If you look at the left/right divide through a statist-authoritarian/individualist lens, it all makes sense.

Would guess this is a symptom of the well documented confidence gap between men and women. Generally, men tend to overestimate their abilities and skills, while women tend to underestimate them. With marijuana legalization, the responsibility of enforcement partially shifts from the state to the family. Instead of police enforcing prohibition, families would have to pick up some of that slack through self-regulation. Men feel greater confidence in their ability to prevent themselves and their children from being impacted by the negative consequences of smoking pot. In contrast, women feel worried that they won't be able to protect their children or their husbands from pot's negative side effects without the help of enforcement by the government.

Exit polling suggests the opposite. Men become far more anti-pot once they get married than women do.

A lot of people assume social/cultural issues explain the political gender gap. But, I really do think it has more to do with men being more libertarian and nationalistic (oxymoronic but true) than women. There are larger gender opinion gaps on immigration, economic issues, and foreign policy than abortion and gay marriage. In fact, relatively speaking, men and women are closest on social issues. Women might even be MORE socially conservative than men (this pot legalization thing is more evidence of that). Breakdown of gender voting gaps here:

This isn't new but opinion polls on marijuana legalization in the U.S. have some interesting patterns. These patterns may hint at why politicians are more reluctant to support legalization than the general public.

Hispanics and women are less likely to support legalization than the general public. A poll in California a few years ago also showed Asians opposed legalization in fairly large numbers. These groups tend to lean Democratic so this may be what holds back more Democrats from supporting legalization.

On the other side, a significant number of Republican leaning whites back legalization now. However, they are countered by evangelicals and older Tea Partiers who tend to oppose legalization and have lots of influence within the party.

I suspect that due to various neurobiological and evolutionary factors women tend to be more sensitive to cultural taboos, more strongly inclined to adopt dominant norms, and more likely to status signal support for those norms.

For one thing, because of pregnancy, women have more food/taste/smell sensitivities. Those things are neurobiologically linked to social norm reinforcing behaviors. (Think of how food aversions are often tied to religious practices. )

Secondly, in evolutionary terms, women we usually the one that went to live with a foreign tribe, so they developed skills that were designed to help them quickly be accepted socially in a new group. For instance, women learn foreign languages faster as adults, and have less of an accent. Similar factor might also lead to quickly adopting dominant social norms and signalling strong support for them.

Besides, I think that everyone is aware that women are generally more groupish than men, more innately concerned with fitting in and being accepted by others, and more moralistic.

In spite of increasingly support for legalization, pot smoking is still socially frowned upon by a lot of people. So I don't think it's surprising that many women are still inclined to signal disapproval of marijuana by saying they oppose legalization.

Interesting evolutionary perspective. Good post.

Right, women are on average more conformist than men.

Just so stories masquerading as science, everyone's favorite new hobby.

"Just so stories masquerading as science, everyone’s favorite new hobby. "

Claiming an explanation is a "just so story" without actually indicating logically why the post is actually an ad hoc fallacy is poor debate.

"Secondly, in evolutionary terms, women we [sic] usually the one that went to live with a foreign tribe, so they developed skills that were designed to help them quickly be accepted socially in a new group."

Let's see the study design that could potentially falsify this hypothesis.

My body, my choice. Men's bodies, get to jail.

Only 26% of women are in favor of unrestricted abortion.

An extremely vocal 26%

But there is looots of room between unrestricted and minor restrictions that don't significantly impede the right to have an abortion.

Yes, obviously a much larger number is mostly supportive of abortion. But a slogan like "my body, my choice" suggests a dogmatic stance to me.

You sir, are a scholar and a gentleman. I commend your balls to say it like it is.

I don't find this surprising. The prohibition movement of the 19th century had a very strong female component in an age where women didn't always have the right to even vote. The reason behind it seems a bit obvious to me- substance abuse destroys the ability of men to provide for children and wives, and it should be women who are most against it for this very reason.

Women in the 19th century were rather more dependent on men to provide for them and their children than modern women.


Typically hilarious armchair theorizing from the MR crowd.

Only, in this case, Sumner jumped the gun:

“armchair theorizing”? Where should the theorizing be properly done? The field of battle? The shower?

Everyone keeps talking about the gender gap here when the most recent data (Oregon and Alaska exit polls) suggests that the gender gap pales in comparison to the age gap or the marriage gap.

The absolute gender gap in Alaska was 3 points. The marriage gap was much more significant.

70% of single men and supported legalization versus only 47% of married men in Alaska. For women it was 58% of singles and 49% of marrieds.

Marriage makes men far more socially conservative, at least when it comes to pot.

Women don't want to date, marry, or have kids with stoners. They don't want their kids to grow up stoned. Simple as that. Guys seem okay with it until they get married and realize they don't want their kids to be stoners either. Stoner=loser, and all the legalization rhetoric will not change that.

Consider that upon women's achieving the vote, almost immediately you saw the failed alcohol prohibition policies.

Women will forever occupy themselves with trying to reform men. Why is that? And where did anyone get the idea that the law should get involved?

I think you're all way overcomplicating this. The explanation is simple: More men smoke pot than women.

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