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35% Want Drinking Age Lowered to 18

A plurality of Americans still think 21 is the proper drinking age, but support is up slightly for dropping it to 18. Perhaps not surprisingly, younger adults are more enthusiastic about lowering the drinking age than their elders.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 46% of Americans think 21 should remain the legal drinking age in the United States. This is down from the low 50s in surveys back to August 2008.  Thirty-five percent (35%) say Americans should legally be allowed to consume alcohol at age 18. Eight percent (8%) favor raising the permissible age to 25, while five percent (5%) think 16 is more appropriate. Four percent (4%) think drinking should be outlawed completely. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act in effect prohibits the purchase or possession of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21, but states have varying laws when it comes to the actual consumption of alcohol by minors, especially in private settings. 

Fifty percent (50%) of adults think current drunk driving laws are not tough enough, while 38% say they are about right. Just six percent (6%) say the laws are too tough. That’s virtually unchanged from earlier surveys. 

But Americans are evenly divided when it comes to the sentencing of first-time drunk driving offenders: 43% believe in mandatory sentences, but 44% say a judge should have latitude in the sentence he or she hands down.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on April 28-29, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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