UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics Unveils Results of the First-Ever Berkeley Psychedelics Survey

July 12, 2023
graphic about support for regulated therapeutic use of psychedelics. Details provided below

More than six in ten (61%) American registered voters support legalizing regulated therapeutic access to psychedelics, including 35% who report “strong” support, the inaugural UC Berkeley Psychedelics Survey has found. 

Over half of voters (56%) polled support obtaining FDA approval for psychedelics by prescription. In addition, more than three-quarters of voters (78%) support making it easier for researchers to study psychedelic substances.

Almost half (49%) support removing criminal penalties for personal use and possession with support for spiritual and religious use polling at just over four out of ten (44%).

The majority of American voters support policy reforms for psychedelics, the survey revealed. The new national poll, launched by the UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) found that almost seven out of ten (69%) voters support at least two of the policy reforms tested. 

However, despite the high levels of support for policy changes, 61% of voters also said they do not perceive psychedelics as “good for society” and 69% do not perceive them as “something for people like me.” The data suggests voters are open to policy change but also have significant reservations.

graphics about those who support psychedelics policy change but also hold negative perceptions.  Details provided below.

Awareness and use of psychedelics are widespread and appear to predict voter sentiment. 47% of voters have heard something about psychedelics recently and over half (51%) reported a ‘first-degree’ connection to psychedelic use – that either they, or someone close to them, has used a psychedelic.

Respondents with awareness and a first-degree connection to psychedelics are also more likely to support policy reforms, have positive perceptions of psychedelics, and trust in almost all sources of psychedelics information (with the exception of law enforcement). With the exception of research expansion, no psychedelic policy reform is majority-supported by voters who have no first-degree connection to use.

chart about support for policy reform mapped by 'first-degree connection' to use

The polling data also illustrated that awareness and first-degree connection to psychedelics are demographically uneven, with African-American and Latino communities most notably underrepresented. 

Additional key data from the survey includes:

  • 47% of voters have heard something about psychedelics recently, with 48% of those saying that they have heard about psychedelics’ use for mental health treatments. 
  • African Americans are the racial/ethnic group least likely to have heard something about psychedelics recently (29%) and also have a much lower first-degree connection to psychedelics use (26%) than other groups.
  • Liberal voter support for legalized therapeutic access to psychedelics is 80%, compared to moderates at 66% and conservatives at 45%.
  • Nearly half of voters (47%) who support therapeutic access to psychedelics also believe psychedelics are not “good for society”.
  • The majority of voters are comfortable with psychedelic therapy being used to treat those suffering from terminal illnesses (80%), veterans (69%), and people suffering from treatment resistant depression and anxiety (67%). Notably fewer are comfortable with open access to psychedelic therapy for anyone over the age of 21 (44%), or the use of psychedelic therapy to treat addiction (45%)
  • While large majorities say they would trust information about psychedelics coming from nurses (75%), scientific researchers (74%), doctors (74%), and psychiatrists (70%), trust in the FDA as an information source is more split, with only 56% considering it “very” or “somewhat trustworthy,” 17% considering it “somewhat suspicious” and 22% considering it “very suspicious.” 

The polling results and insights from the UC Berkeley Psychedelics poll were presented at a dedicated briefing with Best-selling author of ‘How to Change Your Mind’ and BCSP Co-Founder Michael Pollan, BCSP Executive Director, Imran Khan, and, Project Lead, Taylor West

The UC Berkeley Psychedelics Survey provides information vital to understanding where the public stands on psychedelics right now. This is critical for anyone working in the psychedelic field,” Michael Pollan said. “Nuanced debate in media, policy reforms and public education programs will be most effective when informed by data-driven insights rather than assumption and conducted in thoughtful response to the hopes, fears, and perceptions held by different communities across the US.”

The poll is an important milestone for the BCSP’s public education program and for establishing longitudinal analysis of public opinion about psychedelics over time. “Amidst competing narratives of psychedelic stigma and hype, it’s vital that we have clear information about what the public really thinks and believes about psychedelics. Our data shows that people are hearing about the research, and support more science – but also that some communities are being left out of an important public conversation,” Imran Khan said.

“At the BCSP our mission is to support the burgeoning field of psychedelics with vital evidence and trustworthy data and the UC Berkeley Psychedelics Survey provides this much-needed information for policy, business, media and research now and in the future”, Khan concluded.

“This inaugural survey shows voters in the U.S. are open to significant changes in policy related to psychedelic access, even as they hold personal reservations about the role of those compounds in our society, “ said Taylor West. “That’s a nuance in public attitudes about psychedelics that anyone working in the field needs to pay attention to.”

View the UC Berkeley Psychedelics Survey Deck 

Download the survey results document 

Download the survey crosstabs 

The BCSP is grateful to Blake Mycoskie for his philanthropic support of this first edition of the UC Berkeley Psychedelics Survey. The Center is now looking for support for future iterations of the project, including so we can start to identify trends in multi-year data; please get in touch if you’re able to support this important quantitative work.