Trends and predictors of public opinion towards drug policy in Australia 2001-2010

Date Commenced:
March 2012
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

Colonial Foundation Trust

Drug Type:
image - Ndshs Square 2
Project Members
Project Main Description

This project seeks to provide an evidence based understanding of public opinion towards drug policy in Australia, by analysing empirical survey data.


The aims of this review are to:
•    Identify the current state of public opinion in relation to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.
•    To determine how public attitudes have changed over time, and
•    To determine what are the most significant intra-individual predictors of attitudes towards drug policy.

This review is designed as an update and extension to a previously published work: Matthew-Simmons, F., Love, S. and Ritter, A. (2008). Monograph No. 17: A review of Australian public opinion surveys on illicit drugs. DPMP Monograph Series. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

Design and Method

The project analyses 4 waves of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, examining a range of attitudinal questions relating to concern over drug use, drug law reform, and a range of different policy interventions. Trends over time are examined, as well as demographic predictors in the 2010 survey.


Findings show that:

  • There has been a notable increase in public concern over alcohol use between 2001 and 2010. However, this has not been reflected in any large scale changes in attitudes towards alcohol policy; there has been increased support for regulations that already exist (e.g. increased penalties for drink driving), but little support for an increase in alcohol price/taxation.
  • Attitudes towards cannabis use and cannabis policy appear to be largely stable over this time frame, with a minority supporting cannabis legalization, but a majority opposing criminal penalties for cannabis possession.
  • Public support for harm reduction interventions such as NSPs and regulated injecting rooms remains high.

Interim results were published in DPMP Bulletin 21: What does the research evidence tell us about what Australians think about the legal status of drugs?

Project Supporters

Colonial Foundation Trust


The project will provide accurate information regarding Australian public opinion towards drug and alcohol policy, and how opinions have changed during the past decade. This will give policy makers an evidence based understanding of the public’s views.

Project Collaborators: External

Dr Francis Matthew-Simmons
formerly NDARC

Project Research Area
Project Status
Date Commenced
March 2012

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