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6 In 10 Young Republicans Favor Legal Marijuana, Survey Says

A user prepares to roll a marijuana cigarette on the first day of legal possession of marijuana for recreational purposes in the District of Colombia on Thursday.

Nearly two-thirds of Millennials who identify as Republican support legalizing marijuana, while almost half of older GOP Gen-Xers do, according to a recently released Pew survey that could be an indicator of where the debate is heading.

While the Pew Research Center survey published on Friday shows a 14 percentage point gap between Republicans and Democrats under the age of 34, six-in-10 GOP-leaning Millennials still said they favor legalizing cannabis. Seventy-seven percent of surveyed Democrats in the same age group held that view.

For those aged 35 to 50, the same 14 percentage point gap between Republicans and Democrats was evident, but the respective percentages were somewhat lower. In that age group, 47 percent of Republicans favored legalization, as opposed to 61 percent of Democrats.

As Pew notes: "The debate over marijuana also comes ahead of the 2016 presidential election, when both political parties are fighting over the coveted Millennial vote as this group of eligible voters swells in size, even if its members do not consistently show up on Election Day."

The survey follows controversial decisions in Alaska and the District of Colombia. They join Colorado and Washington State. Medical marijuana is legal in some other states, such as California and Minnesota.

The survey on attitudes on marijuana legalization by political affiliation largely mirrors a survey Pew conducted a year ago concerning same-sex marriage. It showed that 61 percent of self-identified Republicans under 30 favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry, as opposed to 77 percent of Democrats in the same age group.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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