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UC Berkeley Survey: Understanding Voter Attitudes Towards Psychedelic Legalization

It’s easy to say that support of psychedelic legalization is spreading when you’re surrounded by psychedelic enthusiasts, but how do you really know?…



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It’s easy to say that support of psychedelic legalization is spreading when you’re surrounded by psychedelic enthusiasts, but how do you really know? These claims are often made because there is a visible increase in coverage from major media platforms and celebrities. However, that isn’t concrete data on what the American Voters really think about psychedelics. Last week, UC Berkeley released the results of its first-ever psychedelic survey, and it shows what people really think about psychedelics.

Overall, the results bode well for psychedelic legalization. However, that doesn’t mean that the whole country is ready to chow down on some mushrooms and explore new depths of their consciousness. Many voters who support the legalization of psychedelics for therapeutic, spiritual, and even recreational use are not interested in trying the mind-altering drugs themselves.

The report concludes: “The data suggests voters are open to policy change but also have significant reservations.” All the recent research into psychedelics for medical use is beginning to change social stigmas, but there is still a long way to go before an all-out psychedelic legalization in the US.  There are a ton of data points represented in the survey, and we’ve outlined some of the most important ones. They will help create a better understanding of the place that psychedelics currently hold in society. 

Study Protocols

  • The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics conducted this survey.
  • It was conducted June 9-15, 2023.
  • The Participants consisted of 1500 registered voters in the US.
  • The participants were randomly selected and demographically representative.

Psychedelic Awareness & Use Data

  • 47% of registered voters have heard something about psychedelics recently (Awareness of psychedelics).
  • Only 13% of respondents that were aware of psychedelics had heard that they are dangerous. 48% had heard that they are being used as a mental health treatment.
  • 61% of survey participants either strongly or somewhat support a ‘regulated legal framework for the therapeutic use of psychedelics.’ Only 34% of respondents oppose it.
  • Over 90% of those surveyed had heard of LSD and MDMA/ecstasy/molly. 83% had heard of psilocybin/magic mushrooms. Fewer people had heard of Mescaline/peyote (67%) or Ketamine (66%). Few people had heard of DMT (37%), Ayahuasca (35%), or Ibogaine (12%)
  • 52% of respondents said that they themselves, or someone close to them (personal connection to psychedelics), had taken a psychedelic. 48% of those people had done so in the last five years, while 40% of them had taken the psychedelic over ten years ago. 
  • 73% of those who said they or someone close to them had taken a psychedelic classified the use as recreational. 
  • Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the use of psychedelics for therapeutic, spiritual, or artistic purposes. There has also been an increase in microdosing. 

Demographic Data

  • Men are more likely to be aware of psychedelics than women.
  • People ages 40-49 are most likely to be aware of psychedelics, with ages 30-39 coming in second. 
  • The gender and age data are similar between people who are aware of psychedelics and those who have either tried psychedelics or have a close connection with someone who has. 
  • People with higher levels of education are more likely to have awareness of psychedelics.
  • Those living in the Western States and people who identify as politically liberal are more likely to have an awareness of psychedelics.
  • People with no or only occasional religious or spiritual practice are more likely to have heard of and/or tried psychedelics.
  • The Latino and African-American communities have less awareness of psychedelics. 

Psychedelic Policy Reform & Legalization Data

  • 78% of people surveyed support making it easier to research psychedelics.
  • 61% support legal framework for therapeutic use.
  • 56% support the medicalization of psychedelics (FDA approval route).
  • 49% support the decriminalization of psychedelics.
  • Only 44% support allowing the use of psychedelics for spiritual and religious purposes.
  • High levels of awareness are correlated with higher levels of legal reform support. *Please note that the data suggests a correlation, not causation.

What Does This Mean for Psychedelics?

It is difficult to say whether awareness of psychedelics’ therapeutic benefits is growing or not since there is no previous data available. It is assumed that more people are hearing about psychedelics as a mental health treatment now than just a few years ago, based on a major increase in positive media coverage. However, there is no data tracking those changes.  

UC Berkeley plans to carry out this survey once a year to collect data on the changes over time. This is crucial data for the industry, which will allow us to track the shifts in public knowledge, perceptions, and voter tendencies of psychedelics over time. Despite the lack of previous data, this survey provides invaluable insight into the potential of the psychedelic industry in the US and will help carve out its path. 

One really interesting discovery that is shown in the data is that a majority of the people who support increased access to psychedelics through legislative changes don’t believe that they are good for society and that they are not “for people like me.” 

The project lead, Taylor West, explained: “For people who are interested in advocating for policy changes, these results could cut both ways. On the one hand, they imply that there is space to get voters on board… without having to change overall public perceptions about psychedelic’s place in society.” On the other hand, it may be easy to negatively sway the vote of people who do no wholeheartedly believe in the power of psychedelic medicines. 

When it comes to changing public opinion about the benefits of psychedelics, the data shows that people are most likely to trust the opinion of nurses, scientific researchers, doctors, and psychiatrists. Interestingly, more people find the FDA to be a somewhat or very suspicious source of information than indigenous practitioners of psychedelic medicine. However, 56% of people still find the FDA to be a trustworthy source. 

People who had more awareness or a first-degree connection to psychedelics were less likely to see law enforcement as a trustworthy source of information. On the other hand, conservative voters are more likely to trust law enforcement but less likely to trust every other source, including scientific researchers, nurses, and the FDA. This data will prove crucial in campaigns for legislative changes. It can be used to strategically change public perceptions of psychedelics. 

This data also suggests that creating changes in the regulations that govern psychedelics may be easier than previously thought. The percentage of people who support these shifts is actually higher than the percentage of people who voted in favor of psychedelic legalization in Oregon and Colorado– and both of those bills passed. Overall, the data is encouraging for the future of psychedelic access. 

The UC Berkeley psychedelic survey has provided invaluable insights into the voter landscape regarding psychedelic legalization in the US. For anyone hoping to instigate legislative changes that make psychedelics more accessible, this data will influence where those changes occur and the political tools used to make it happen.

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