Home > Public attitudes to alcohol in Ireland: a recent survey.

Sinclair, Hamish (2006) Public attitudes to alcohol in Ireland: a recent survey. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 18, Summer 2006, p. 10.

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In April 2006, Alcohol Action Ireland published the findings from an omnibus survey by Millward Brown IMS of public attitudes to alcohol consumption and to possible policy changes required to reduce alcohol-related harm.1 Using a quota-based sampling method, 1,093 adults aged 18 years or over, were interviewed between 20 October and 3 November 2005. The sample was quota-controlled by age, gender, social class and geographical region to ensure representation of the adult population living in Ireland.

The main findings of the survey are discussed below.

Alcohol-related harm

Two thirds (66%) of all respondents personally knew someone who had a problem with alcohol consumption, and over half (57%) had been concerned about someone’s alcohol use, which suggests that these people had a closer relationship with the person with the problem. When respondents were asked if they or anyone close to them had experienced an injury, harassment or intimidation caused by their own or someone else’s use of alcohol, 44% answered ‘Yes’.

Given this high level of perceived or experienced harm, it is not surprising that a majority (82%) of respondents believed that the current level of alcohol consumption in Ireland was a problem and that a similar majority (85%) believed that our cultural attitude towards drinking alcohol and the behaviour that goes with it should change. These beliefs were more prevalent among women than men. Just over half (51%) of all respondents believed that the government was not doing enough to address the problems caused by alcohol use; 23% were undecided on this question. The response was generally consistent across gender and age groups.

Taxation and drink driving

While taxation increases are never popular just over half of respondents (54%) stated they would accept an increase in excise duty or tax on alcohol if it was ‘specifically put towards an initiative that led to a reduction in alcohol-related harm’. A majority (87%) of respondents were also in favour of full nationwide introduction of random breath testing to detect drunk-drivers. The survey report notes that support for random breath testing was strong (84%) even among rural respondents who generally have fewer transport options when socialising outside the home. However, nearly three-quarters (72%) of all respondents did not believe that the gardaí have enough resources to enforce the current law in relation to drink-driving.

Advertising and sponsorship

While support for an outright ban on all forms of alcohol adverting was low (44% in favour), a much larger proportion (72%) wished to see alcohol advertising permitted only after 9.00 pm, when children’s peak television-viewing time was over. Only 39% of respondents agreed that sponsorship of sports by the alcohol industry should be brought to an end; 35% opposed the idea; and 26% were undecided. More women than men agreed with a ban on sport sponsorship (45% compared to 33%).

Alcohol availability

Only one-third (33%) of respondents believed that the gardaí have sufficient resources to enforce the current law governing pub opening hours. A majority (71%) believed that allowing alcohol to be sold via the phone or internet would make it easier for under-18s to buy alcohol. Again, a large majority (74%) of respondents did not believe that the gardaí had enough resources to ensure that the law governing sales of alcohol to minors was enforced.

Treatment interventions

A majority (76%) of respondents were in favour of health and other professionals asking questions to identify problem drinking at an early stage in settings where a person showed signs of alcohol-related harm. Only a small proportion (3%) where opposed to this proposal, while 21% were neutral on the issue. Repeated attendance at accident and emergency (A&E) departments by a person under the influence of alcohol can be an indicator of an alcohol-related problem. Again, a majority (61%) of respondents were in favour of A&E departments having a specific service in place to refer patients with persistent alcohol-related problems. It is interesting to note that over one third (37%) did not feel that such a service should be the responsibility of the A&E department.

Alcohol agency

A majority of respondents (85%) believed that the government should set up an agency with specific responsibility for tackling alcohol-related problems.

The findings of the survey suggest that there is widespread public support for measures such as random breath testing, identifying problem drinking at an early stage and restricting alcohol advertising to after 9.00 pm. Less popular, but still supported by a majority of the public, are measures such as an A&E referral service for patients with persistent alcohol-related problems and an increase in excise duty or tax on alcohol. There was also a general belief that the gardaí did not have sufficient resources to enforce the law regarding drink-driving, opening hours and the sale of alcohol to minors.  

1. Alcohol Action Ireland (2006) Alcohol in Ireland: time for action. A survey of Irish attitudes. Dublin: Alcohol Action Ireland. 


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