Very interesting results from a PoliticsHome poll on legalising drugs which show a majority of voters (52-43) in favour of legalising some or all drugs. The breakdown by party ID is interesting too, with a strong majority of Liberal Democrat supporters in favour (59-36), a majority amongst Labour voters (52-42) and a narrow majority against amongst Tory voters (45-52). The figure amongst those not listed as supporting one of the big three parties is 59-35 in favour, though it would be interesting (though it would require a poll with a bigger sample size, I guess) to see how that breaks down amongst the smaller parties – I would assume Green voters would tend to be in favour and UKIP ones against, but who knows which way BNP voters might break on this issue?
But beyond party IDs, the most interesting thing about the poll is the result, especially in a climate where the only voices in favour of changes to the drug laws I’ve seen in any mainstream media recently have been characters in The Wire. But then, it does match up interestingly with research in the US – though that was strictly on medical marijuana, not drugs generally – that shows how people in favour of it tend to believe they’re in a minority even when they’re not.
But the interesting question is where this support for legalisation has come from, especially as I’ve not noticed any lessening of the ‘all drugs are evil’ message recently. I suspect it’s down to a combination of factors, including the nature of the population changing as those more resistant to the idea die and being replaced by an older generation that came of age in the 60s. There’s also likely a drip-drip effect of ‘well, the sky didn’t fall there’ stories of drug legalisation and decriminalisation elsewhere, such as the medical marijuana states of the US and the Portuguese system of decriminalisation. Add to that, an undercurrent in the media that looks critically at the current system such as the aforementioned Wire, Misha Glenny’s McMafia, and this Bad Science article to name just three that sprung to mind while writing this post.
Of course, the big question is whether any politician might do something about the situation, given this polling. I suspect it still remains unlikely that anyone might stick their head over the parapet, but in this age of budget cuts and giant fiscal black holes, the potential tax revenues from legalisation might start to look attractive.