Red Wall Voters Want Drug Law Reform – New Polling Shows

by Jay Jackson

New research commissioned by the cross-party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform and conducted by accredited pollsters Redfield and Wilton, has found that the public clearly support harm reduction measures like overdose prevention centres and drug testing services.

The APPG for Drug Policy Reform is a group of cross-party Parliamentarians who believe there must be an end to the severe public health and societal harms caused by the global ‘war on drugs’.

The opinion survey sought views on the UK’s drug laws and the Government’s track record on dealing with the harms associated with drugs. It polled a representative national sample, as well as a sample of so-called ‘red wall’ voters – those living in the 40 parliamentary constituencies the Conservative Party won in the 2019 election, mostly former Labour heartlands. Some notable findings include:

49% of overall voters support supervised drug consumption facilities (overdose prevention centres), compared to 18% against, 24% neutral and 9% don’t know. Among red wall voters, 45% support supervised drug consumption facilities, compared to 20% against, 24% neutral and 10% don’t know.

61% of the public support drug safety checking services (for example at music festivals). ‘Red wall’ voters support stood at 66%.

67% of the public support provision of the life-saving anti-overdose drug Naloxone, (with support again higher at 69% among ‘red wall’ voters.)

The polling also found that a majority of the public think that the Government’s drug policies have been unsuccessful in tackling the supply and use of drugs in recent years. 

Other notable findings include:

  • A majority (of those who had a view) support the legalisation of cannabis, with 49% supporting the proposal, versus 27% against. Among ‘red wall’ voters the breakdown was 43% support, 28% oppose.

  • A majority of respondents would support the decriminalisation of certain drugs, including a small majority of ‘red wall’ voters.

  • In a boost for campaigners for the rescheduling of psilocybin, clear majorities support the Government allowing research into the potential medical benefits of currently illegal drugs. 65% of all voters support, and an even higher 68% of red wall voters support.

  • The most popular choice of outcome for someone who is found in possession of a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use was to receive education or treatment.

  • More respondents perceive drug dealing and drug possession to be prevalent in the UK as a whole than perceive it to be prevalent in their local areas.

  • More voters view alcohol and tobacco – drugs which are currently legal – as harmful to those who use them on a regular basis, than view cannabis as harmful to those who use it on a regular basis.

Co-Chair of the APPG, Crispin Blunt MP said:

“This survey aimed to test the assumptions that politicians and others in positions of power seem to have about the public’s views on drugs. Many of the results strongly suggest that policymakers are getting it wrong.

“Not only does the public clearly support harm reduction measures like supervised overdose prevention centres, but in the case of some reformist policies, the so-called ‘red wall’ are actually more supportive than the average national voter.

“The data shows that political leaders don’t need to be afraid of being called ‘soft on drugs’ if they follow the evidence and support harm reduction policies. The public understand that the current approach, of which the Government’s latest drug strategy is a continuation, is not working, and that new measures are needed to save lives.”

APPG Member Caroline Lucas MP said:

“Despite overdose prevention centres and drug safety checking services not being explicitly backed by either major political party, these findings show that people would be comfortable with these harm reduction measures, and also decriminalisation. With record drug deaths and addiction tearing through communities there is no excuse – our leaders must now explicitly back and support the roll out of these sensible and evidence-based reforms which will save lives.”

Secretariat of the Labour Campaign for Drug Policy Reform Jay Jackson said: “This polling clearly demonstrates that the public understand how and why we need to totally change our approach if we want to reduce the harms that drugs cause to individuals and wider society.

Clearly, we have reached a point where the public are ahead of politicians in terms of understanding the need to pivot from a criminal justice approach, to one that deals with drugs as a public health issue.

Most significantly, it dispels the myth of the authoritarian social conservative red wall, and shows that politicians can confidently make arguments in favour of harm reduction interventions such as Overdose Prevention Centres and drug testing facilities in the knowledge that these policies are popular, effective and necessary.”

This piece was written by Jay Jackson, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at Volteface. Tweets @wordsbyjayj

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