It’s been nearly three weeks since President Joe Biden announced one of the most sweeping presidential pardons in modern American history. NBC News reported that the Democrat was taking executive action to pardon thousands of people convicted of marijuana possession under federal law.
Overall, two-thirds (68%) of the American public supports legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. This includes 76% of Democrats and 73% of independents, along with 52% of Republicans. By age, support is highest among those under 35 years old (87%) but also includes a majority of those age 55 and over (53%). ... Similarly, 69% of Americans approve of Biden issuing pardons for people convicted on federal charges for simple marijuana possession.
Specifically on the president’s policy, 83% of Democratic voters endorsed Biden’s pardons, as did 50% of Republican voters. That’s obviously a big gap, but the fact that half of GOP voters are on board with anything the president does is notable.
Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a written statement accompanying the data, “Polling from a variety of sources shows that support for marijuana legalization has been increasing consistently over the past twenty years. Biden’s action is in line with how the vast majority of Americans feel about this issue.”
The day after the president announced the pardons, I noted how surprising it was to see Biden’s Republican detractors say very little about the new policy. The Republican National Committee, for example, had literally nothing to say about it. The National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee were silent, too.
Circling back to our earlier coverage, this wasn’t especially normal. On a day-to-day level, Republican criticisms of Biden’s agenda are effectively reflexive: If the Democratic White House wants x, then GOP leaders are eager to tell voters that x represents a socialistic assault on everything that is good and true about America.
With this in mind, it was easy to imagine Republicans launching apoplectic broadsides in response to Biden’s sweeping and progressive pardons. The public would inevitably hear tired clichés about Democrats being “soft on crime” and failing to appreciate the seriousness of “gateway drugs.”
And yet, Republican leaders and their party committees bit their tongue — and the Monmouth poll helps explain why.
It’s worth noting for context that it’d be an exaggeration to suggest that all Republicans sat on their hands. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who routinely complains that not enough Americans are behind bars, made sure to register his disapproval soon after the White House’s announcement. So did one of Fox News’ prime-time hosts.
But by most measures, the American mainstream appears to be with Biden on this one.