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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims

Kansas Speaks survey: Nearly 70% ready for legalization of marijuana, Medicaid expansion

The 2023 “Kansas Speaks” survey produced by Fort Hays State University showed about 70% of Kansans support Medicaid expansion and legalization of recreational marijuana sales, and 63% said women were in a better position that politicians to make health cre decisions about terminating a pregnancy. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

By Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — Nearly seven in 10 Kansans support an end to the Legislature’s blockade of bills legalizing recreational marijuana and expanding Medicaid eligibility to modest-income workers, a statewide survey conducted by Fort Hays State University said Tuesday.

Republican leaders of the House and Senate stalled Medicaid expansion legislation since Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed Medicaid legislation in 2017. Forty states and the District of Columbia have broadened access to health care under a law requiring the federal government to cover 90% of expansion costs. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said she would recommend expansion to the 2024 Legislature.

Kelly has expressed support for legalization of marijuana for medicine purposes, but has resisted calls for recreational consumption of cannabis. The Kansas House passed a medical marijuana bill two years ago that was ignored by the Kansas Senate. In the “Kansas Speaks” survey produced by Fort Hays State, 69.6% of respondents supported expanding Medicaid in Kansas and 9% were opposed. There was a partisan flavor to the issue with 86% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 55% of Republicans backing Medicaid expansion. The FHSU report indicated 67.2% supported recreational sales of marijuana for individuals 21 and older, but 16.9% opposed that position. Twenty-three U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use marijuana. The opinion snapshot of attitudes and opinions was conducted Sept. 20 to Oct.10 among 485 adult residents of Kansas.

Kelly and Trump

Participants in the survey were fractured in terms of their satisfaction with Kelly’s five years as governor. The report said 38.4% were satisfied and 32.9% were dissatisfied. In terms of the Legislature as a whole, 23.3% expressed satisfaction and 35.1% registered dissatisfication. President Joe Biden, who lost the state to former President Donald Trump in 2020, gave ground among Kansans in the new survey. In the 2020 election in Kansas, Trump earned 56.2% of the vote to Biden’s 41.5%. The new survey indicated 62.8% of Kansans weren’t satisfied with the current president — nearly three times the 21.9% who were satisfied. Trump is the leading candidate for the GOP nomination in 2024 despite a series of felony indictments.

In terms of election security, 54% of Kansas respondents said they were “confident that the reported winners of the elections in Kansas are actually the candidates that most Kansans voted for.” A mere 11% felt otherwise, with 25.8% neutral on the issue and 9.2% saying they didn’t know how to answer the question.

On other election-oriented questions: 41% said they didn’t want ballot drop boxes banned; 47.1% preferred not to end voting by mail; and 49.6% would resist abolition of advance voting.

Abortion questions

Two-thirds of people surveyed concluded women were in a better position than politicians to make decisions about abortion, with 12.4% convinced elected officials were better analysts of bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom. In terms of Kansas government restricting abortion, 50.8% said state lawmakers shouldn’t regulate the procedure and 27.1% said state government was the right arena for regulatory control.

Fifty-five percent said Kansas shouldn’t make it illegal to travel outside the state to get an abortion if Kansas imposed a ban on terminating pregnancies. Just under one-fifth of participants would welcome a travel ban on Kansans for purpose of abortion.

In August 2022, Kansas voters rejected a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constituation that would have made it easier for the Legislature to weaken access to abortion in the state. Among those taking part in the survey, here was the split on that amendment vote: 37.2% cast a “no” ballot, 33.4% didn’t vote and 18.6% voted “yes.”

FHSU included questions about development of a state energy plan that incorporated “forward-thinking” policy. At least 65% said solar and wind energy resournces were “important” or “extremely important” in Kansas. Meanwhile, 62.1% said Kansas farmers ought to make changes to agricultural practices to conserve water.

Education front

When asked what was the minimum level of education family members needed to ensure financial security, 27.4% said a high school diploma and 28.4% thought a technical certificate or associate degree was sufficient. Thirty-four percent said a four-year college diploma or a graduate degree was necessary.

Three-fourths of respondents said they were comfortable relying on tax dollars to support K‐12 public schools — a mandate of the Kansas Constitution. The level of certainty was lower for post-secondary institutions: 67.7% for technical colleges, 62.7% for community colleges and 52.4% for state universities.

Fifty-five percent surveyed said they lived in a home owned by themselves or someone in the household. Thirty-six percent were renting and 7.6% were living with someone without paying rent. More than 71% were concerned about the cost of housing in their community.

In addition, 43.7% said local government should ease zoning regulations to allow more small, multi‐family dwellings in neighborhoods.

Participants were divided on who was best positioned to deal with homelessness. The options: government, 37.8%; nonprofits, 21.9%; and churches, 11.2%. The majority of respondents, or 34%, pointed to mental health issues as the root cause of homelessness, 30.9% said the culprit was lack of affordable housing and 23.7% said it had to do with addiction.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at

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