Why do women hate marijuana?

So, back this summer I did a post from my exploration of marijuana attitudes, looking at how much it is influenced by religion.  The main point of the research, though, was to try and explain why– unlike almost every other policy issue– women are actually more conservative than men.  Laurel and I actually presented the paper a couple weeks ago and I realized I should mention our findings here, as I think they were pretty interesting.  Very short version: women are less supportive of legal marijuana because they have used marijuana less.  Here’s the abstract:

Though it is well-established that women are more liberal than men across a broad range of issues, when it comes to the increasingly prominent issue of marijuana legalization, the direction of the gender gap is reversed, with women more conservative than men. Relying primarily on a 2013 Pew survey—unique for the extensiveness of its marijuana questions, including marijuana usage—we explore and attempt to explain the nature of this unusual gender gap. We test several hypotheses and find that neither women’s role as mothers, nor most other demographic differences, can explain this gap. The greater religiosity of women, especially, Evangelical Christian, “born again” identity, does play a prominent role in the gender gap on marijuana policy, but does not account for the full difference of opinion between women and men. We also find that the “white male effect” is a driver behind the gap, as not only men, but whites are significantly more supportive of legalized marijuana throughout our analyses (supplemented with ANES). Importantly, we also find there is a substantial gender gap on use of marijuana and that once this is controlled for, the impact of gender disappears. If the debate around marijuana policy becomes framed more as a civil liberties issue and less about immoral and dangerous behavior, the existing gender gap should decline.

And here’s our key table, for those who enjoy a nice regression analysis.


Anyway, sometime in the future we’ll take a look across issues where women seem to be more opposed to the perceived “risky” position than do men.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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