Majority Oppose Late Night Drinking

Most people are opposed to extending drinking hours,
especially in residential areas. The huge majority are in favour of
local residents having the right to object to late night opening and are
opposed to any reduction in the legal drinking age. Over three quarters
are against petrol stations being allowed to sell alcohol.

These are among the main findings of a new opinion poll conducted by NOP for the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

The poll was carried out to gauge public opinion in advance of
the Government’s proposals for reform of the licensing laws and for a
national strategy to combat alcohol misuse. The Government has stated
that it intends to meet the demands of the alcohol industry by
comprehensive liberalisation of laws which it describes as outmoded and
which it implies are unpopular with the public. A Government White Paper
on licensing reform is expected some time in February or March. The
idea of complete deregulation of late night closing has been floated.

The new poll shows that, in fact, the majority of people are
against radical change and that there is little support for a move
towards continental-style drinking laws.

In a statement, the Institute of Alcohol Studies said:

“These findings give the lie to the claim that there is strong
popular demand for change. On the contrary, they show clearly that the
majority of the public see the present laws as useful social safeguards
which they believe should be retained. They are right to believe this.
Experience elsewhere shows that deregulation of closing times causes
problems and serves the interests of parts of the licensed trade and a
minority of drinkers at the expense of the wider community. The
Government should remember that it is there to serve the interests of
the majority, even if it is normally a silent one.”

The Main Findings

  • Over half (59%) of the population think that in general it
    would be a bad thing to extend drinking hours at night. 41% think it
    would be a good thing.
  • There is a small majority of men (54%) in favour of
    extending drinking hours, but most of them do not favour extending
    drinking hours beyond midnight, and that only in city centre pubs. The
    majority of men favour keeping current closing times for pubs in
    residential areas.
  • The small majority of men in favour of modest reform of
    drinking hours is more than outweighed by the much larger majorities of
    women against change. 71% of women think it would be a bad thing to
    extend drinking hours at night.
  • Over 90% of the population think that local residents should have the right to object to late night opening by pubs and clubs.
  • Support for late night opening is concentrated among men,
    the young and heavy drinkers. 57% of women, and just under three
    quarters of men who exceed the `sensible limits’ are in favour of
    extending drinking hours. Over -the-limit drinkers are around twice as
    likely as `sensible drinkers’ to say that they intend to make use of any
    extra drinking hours.
  • There are regional variations. The highest proportions of
    people thinking extended drinking hours would be a good thing are in
    Yorkshire (48%) and London (47%) television areas, the lowest in Wales
    and West (31%) and East Anglia (36%). In no region is there a majority
    in favour of extending drinking hours.

Continental-style Licensing Laws

The survey also tested public attitudes owards reform in the
direction of continental-style licensing laws. The results show that
such a move would be opposed by the large majority of the population:

  • 72% are in favour of retaining the present law restricting the entry of children into bars.
  • 75% are in favour of retaining the present law preventing people from buying alcohol in restaurants except with a meal.
  • 84% think that the ban on eating places like McDonalds selling alcohol should be kept.

Other legal issues

The survey also asked about two other issues where a change in
the law has been suggested or demanded by some interest group. Again,
the results are clear: the large majority are opposed to change.

  • Altogether, 91% are in favour of either keeping the legal
    age for buying alcohol as it is at 18 or raising it. Only 7% favour
    lowering the legal age.
  • 78% are opposed to petrol stations being allowed to sell alcohol.

General Attitudes

The survey also asked questions about attitudes towards issues
having a bearing on a national strategy against alcohol misuse, which
the Government is presently formulating.

  • There is a clear majority in favour of a national strategy
    being drawn up – 79% agree that `the Government should do more to reduce
    the level of alcohol abuse in society’.
  • 71% agree that Britain would be a healthier and better place to live if the population as a whole drank less alcohol.
  • However, while the majority support the idea of reducing
    alcohol abuse, they do not favour raising the tax on alcohol to achieve
    this end:
  • Only a third agree that the Government should tax alcohol to discourage excessive drinking.
  • Nearly three quarters of the population are against banning alcohol advertising on TV.
  • The public’s support for a national strategy to reduce the
    level of alcohol abuse may reflect personal experience of the problems
    it causes:
  • Just under half the population (47%) say that they are
    currently acquainted with someone they would describe as a problem
  • Over a quarter (27%) report that at some time in their lives they have worried that they themselves were drinking too much.

The Survey

NOP Solutions carried out a survey of over 1800 adults aged 15
years and over using a random location sample. The sample was designed
to be representative of all adults in Gt. Britain. Interviewing took
place between 6 – 11 January 2000.

Further information:

Andrew McNeill & Derek Rutherford
Daytime01480 466766
020 7222 4001/5880