ACT Polling: Majority Support Health-based Responses

Photo of a variety of people with text overlaid reading 
"79% are in favour of non-criminal responses. 
Read more a recent survey commissioned by Uniting in ACT Regarding the Possession of Illicit Drugs"

Polling in the ACT commissioned by Uniting’s Fair Treatment campaign asked:

“What action best describes what should happen to someone found in possession of illicit drugs in personal quantities?”

The findings showed that an overwhelming majority are in favour of health-based responses to drug use.

Nearly 80% of respondents were in favour of non-criminal responses, these encompassed no action taken, warnings, fines and referrals to education or treatment. Additionally, 70% of respondents supported non-pecuniary responses, or responses that were not fines or criminal consequences. This reflects evidence that fines are ineffective and exacerbate existing systems of disadvantage.

The poll surveyed over 1,800 resident across three electorates: Brindabella, Yerrabi and Kurrajong. The lowest recorded majorities were for ice, but even then there was a significant majority (at its lowest 66% in Yerrabi) of the general community in support of non-criminal responses to personal use of ice in all three electorates. There was also a clear majority (at its lowest 57% in Brindabella) of non-pecuniary responses for ice across the three electorates.

Changing community attitudes

This is the same question used by the National Drug Strategy Household Survey carried out once every 3 years by the Institute of Health. The findings are consistent with a trend of increasing public support over time for non-criminal responses to personal drug use. The 2019 survey found that at least 68% of the over 22,000 respondents favoured non-criminal responses (i.e. no action, warnings, and fines), even for methamphetamines. The preference for non-criminal responses went up to 92% for cannabis use. In the 2016 survey, this figure was 4% lower at 64%. In NSW, 2021 polling also found similar results.

It is evident that community perceptions and understandings of drug use is changing and it’s time for the legislation to catch up. These findings are not consistent with the ACT’s proposed legislation which, although offering more opportunities for diversion, continues to impose fines on drug users.

Uniting NSW.ACT Head of Advocacy and Media Emma Maiden said the results should be seen as a mandate for the ACT Government to be bolder and more progressive in its reform.

We urge the Government to draw courage from the polling and adopt fair, evidence-based, best-practice policies.

Emma Maiden – Uniting NSW.ACT Head of Advocacy and Media

ACT Polling Data

The polling was conducted by uComms on behalf of Uniting NSW.ACT in June 2022. It surveyed over 1,800 resident across three electorates: Brindabella, Yerrabi and Kurrajong. It tracked perceptions towards cannabis, ecstasy, heroin, and methamphetamine aka ice.

Brindabella 2 & 6/6/22
(N = 610)
Yerrabi 2, 6 & 7/6/22
(N = 606)
Kurrajong 15/6/22
(N = 603)
All 3 seats
Support for non-pecuniary82.4%79.0%85.6%82.3%
Support for non-criminal89.2%81.9%90.4%87.2%
Support for non- pecuniary66.2%62.9%79.3%69.5%
Support for non-criminal80.5%76.0%89.3%81.9%
Support for non- pecuniary63.2%58.0%77.9%66.4%
Support for non-criminal71.3%67.3%84.3%74.3%
Support for non- pecuniary56.8%59.8%74.7%63.8%
Support for non-criminal69.2%66.4%81.1%72.2%
All drugs   
Support for non- pecuniary67.2%64.9%79.4%70.5%
Support for non-criminal77.6%72.9%86.3%78.9%