Assessing Michigan voters’ support for legalizing psychedelic therapy
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Assessing Michigan voters’ support for legalizing psychedelic therapy

An online survey finds 65% of registered voters in Michigan say they support allowing licensed health professionals to legally prescribe psychedelics.

Michigan is one of several legislatures considering bills to legalize psychedelic-assisted therapy with compounds such as psilocybin. To gauge Michigan voters’ interest in legalizing psychedelics, Reason Foundation solicited opinions through online platforms Amazon Turk and Pollfish. A majority of the 450 respondents who identified as registered voters in Michigan told Reason Foundation they supported professionally supervised psychedelic-assisted mental health treatment. 

This support for psychedelic legalization matches a larger national poll by University of California Berkeley researchers. That 2023 online and phone hybrid UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics poll of 1,500 registered voters found, “More than six out of ten (61 percent) American registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, including 35 percent who report ‘strong’ support.”

Michigan support for legalized, regulated psychedelics market

After Oregon and Colorado passed statewide ballot initiatives legalizing professionally supervised psychedelic services, legislators in other states, including California, Arizona, and New Jersey, have begun introducing legalization bills for similar regulated psychedelic markets

In Reason Foundation’s online survey of Michigan voters, respondents were asked two questions after being given a brief background about the issue (which is available in full in the methodological notes below). The first was, “Would you support or oppose a state bill that allowed licensed mental health professionals to prescribe psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin, to patients who have a diagnosable mental illness?”

In merging the results to Reason Foundation’s questions on the Amazon Mturk and Pollfish platforms, 65% of registered voters in Michigan said they supported allowing licensed health professionals to legally prescribe psychedelics, 15% opposed, and 19% had no opinion. 

Source: Reason Foundation

The poll gave respondents a chance to provide additional comments about their position on the legalization of psychedelics. Some respondents were not only aware of psychedelic-assisted therapy but also expressed personal experiences. With legalization being publicly debated in several states right now and a national survey analysis by Columbia University suggesting approximately 5% of the public has used psychedelics in the last year, this level of familiarity with the issue is in line with what’s expected. 

“I am aware of research showing how micro-dosing of psilocybin helps treat clinical depression and with some addictions,” wrote one Michigan respondent on the Amazon Turk platform, referring to the practice of using lower doses. “Psilocybin could be a more natural alternative to the heavy drugs used today to treat depression. The positives that could come with legalization greatly outnumber the negatives.”

Another online respondent on Amazon Turk wrote, “I myself have taken them and have seen first-hand how they are helpful when it comes to anxiety and depression. I fully believe if taken correctly, they can significantly reduce anxiety and the feelings of depression.”

Other respondents expressed skepticism of legalization. “I just don’t think it would be beneficial to anyone,” one wrote on Turk. “There’s too many variables. Something could go wrong if they were prescribed this. I feel like it’d require way too much medical care.”

Support for psychedelic teletherapy

The second question Reason Foundation asked was about an additional regulatory option that might improve access to psychedelics and lower costs for patients. Respondents were asked if they supported psychedelics sold over the counter coupled with teletherapy, similar to how states regulate medical cannabis. (For more details on this topic, see Reason Foundation’s policy brief, “A policy framework for personal psychedelics licenses.”) 

This question asked, “Alternatively, would you support or oppose a state bill that allowed licensed mental health professionals to prescribe psychedelic substances to patients with a mental illness, and would ALSO allow patients to take them at home on their own, so long as patients were educated on safe use and were required to have regular check-ins with a mental health professional?”

A slight majority of online respondents in Michigan, 55%, said they supported allowing patients to take psychedelic substances home alone, while 26% opposed and 19% said they didn’t have enough information.

Source: Reason Foundation

Some respondents, given the space to say more, expressed comfort with at-home medical use if it was supervised. “If they are being monitored, I think it is the best way, then they can not only make sure it is working but to make sure they are not abusing it.” wrote one Michigan respondent. 

Methodological notes

Respondents were taken from two online polling sources: Amazon Turk, an established sample in political polling, and Pollfish, an online polling service. In total, there were 450 responses to Reason Foundation’s questions—322 responses came from Pollfish and 138 from Amazon Mturk. 

Respondents were given this brief background on the issue before the two questions: 

As you may know, some studies show that psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin, the active ingredient in ”magic mushrooms,” have been shown to be effective in treating mental health illnesses, including depression. The substances are currently illegal but are going through clinical trials; the U.S. federal government may one day allow them to be available through a physician in the next 4-10 years. Importantly, some lawmakers in your state would like to make these substances available under certain medical conditions before the federal government.

After each question, respondents were asked to give a brief, open-ended response. 

As has been noted in research and analysis, public polling has become much more challenging over the last decade. “Telephone polls greatly overstate civic engagement, probably because of nonresponse bias,” Pew Research Center writes. “Telephone polls also overstate political engagement, but to a lesser extent.”

As a result, more pollsters have shifted to using and including online surveys. But Pew has also published research suggesting that on some issues, online “opt-in” polls, similar to the paid population of Turks and Pollfish, can have a bias upwards of 11 points. 

In 2013, this author compared Gallup to an online poll and found broad similarities on immigration, but with a large discrepancy in Republicans. 

One approach to countering bias is to re-weight a poll if its sample population is nonrepresentative of the general population’s demographics, including gender or race. This survey did not ask demographic questions because, on this issue with largely unknown demographic attitudes such as psilocybin legalization, a pollster would first need to establish a baseline with a large and varied sampling approach (phone, canvassing, multiple online platforms) to see how different demographic characteristics tend to map toward support of the policy shift. 

Another method to achieve a representative sample is to reduce the risk of false reporting (such as untruthful or haphazard responses) by asking respondents to verify their positions. In the author’s estimation, Amazon Turk is particularly good for this approach because you can ask open-ended questions with great flexibility in the format. Respondents may be less likely to misrepresent their views, whether intentionally or not, if they have to explain their answers. This approach doubles as a means of helping to gauge the levels of voters’ understanding of an issue. 

In an attempt to limit false reporting of voter registration, this survey asked respondents to provide the zip code in which they were registered to vote. 

There is a small probability that users were sampled twice when the responses from the two platforms were merged.

The University of California-Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics poll with 1,500 respondents had a margin of error of 2.5%. To conform to contemporary statistical approaches for surveys (and use confidence intervals instead of P-values), the margin of error in our poll was calculated using a simple bootstrap. A conservative estimate (97.5th and 2.5th percentile) of 5,000 means was used to construct the confidence interval. The code for these tests are available from the author upon request. This implies a margin of error of about +/- 3%.

Given the potential bias of an online opt-in poll and the similarity to the results of UC Berkeley’s findings, there is a moderate likelihood that greater than 50% of the target population support in-person, professionally guided psychedelic therapy. However, support for the remote therapy option is within both the margin of error and the potential bias of an online opt-in poll. 

Moreover, non-salient issues are subject to large swings because voters do not have a strong opinion on the issue. When put up to a vote, both Colorado and Oregon voters approved state ballot measures legalizing psychedelics, but with less than 60% voting in favor.