Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

British Social Attitudes Survey

with one comment

I like it when big surveys like the British Social Attitudes Survey or the British Crime Survey get published, not because I think that they are particularly valid tools for measuring social phenomena (like my partner said this morning, “well they’ve never asked me”) but because I like to look at the data and see how it is being skewed by different people for different aims. I also like to look at the data and try and explain why these changes have come about.

The National Centre for Social Research who do the BSAS say that people are more concerned about cannabis because of increased concerns about its dangers. I think that it is more interesting to look at why there has been increased concern about the danger and it’s not necessarily because cannabis is more dangerous than it was or has been found to be more dangerous. I would guess that it is because this drug has become more politicised over recent years including; several MP confessions/denials about whether they have ever smoked it, or, more importantly, whether they inhaled; reducing it to Class C and then back to Class B; the sacking of David Nutt from the ACMD because he thought that cannabis should be lower down in the harm rating it poses to users; populist media stories about how super skunk is super dangerous because it has ten times more THC in than normal cannabis; and some research suggesting that prolonged use causes mental  health problems. It’s not just a matter of increased awareness about scientific facts on the harm it poses but a multitide of factors.

On the Today programme this morning they said on several occasions that the survey would help the Conservatives because of the increased intolerance towards cannabis but they failed to mention that a larger proportion of people think that cohabitation is okay. A majority of people still think that marriage is better than cohabiting but, at 45% and rising, it will be interesting to how this changes when/if the Tories win and introduce tax breaks for married couples.

I have been trying to find the raw (or even the weighted and cleaned up) data- the NatCen website doesn’t give much detail and it doesn’t seem to provide the full analysis for download. There is data on the ESDS website but it only goes up to 2007- if this report is based on three year old data then to say that this is what people think in 2009 is probably unfair. According to NatCen:

Public support for increasing taxation and public spending is now at its lowest level since the early 1980s. 39% support this, down from 62% in 1997. Only 8% support cuts. The most popular view, held by 50%, is that spending and taxation levels should stay as they are. Support for redistribution from the better off to those who are less well off has dropped markedly. This reflects a change of mood among Labour supporters, in the wake of the changed stance taken by their party.

If this is based on 2007 data it is probably a bit out of kilter with a country which sees bankers as evil, MPs as public purse snatchers and the unemployed as innocent victims of bankers’ greed. I also think that people’s attitudes towards taxing and spending have changed somewhat over the course of the recession and Britain’s mounting budget deficit- although people might not want increased taxes I think that many people are moving towards being resigned to it.

If this press release isn’t based on 3 year old data then I really think that more effort should be made to get it out in the open before press releases are published.

I had a look at the 2007 data anyway and was interested to see that:

56% of people think that “some death penalty is the most appropriate sentence”
And,
80% of people think that “people who break the law should get stiffer sentences” (a massively loaded question if I ever saw one)

but that only

43.5% of people think that you should “always obey law, even if particular law is wrong”

I also found out that people don’t intervene in inconsiderate behaviour (whatever that is) because they are scared of getting hurt- aw, and there was me thinking that people didn’t intervene because they were scared of being arrested like that woman who didn’t brandish a knife at some burglars and then wasn’t told that she could have been arrested for it, despite what the Sun said. Compare and contrast this with this.

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Written by criminologyandstuff

January 26, 2010 at 11:36 am

Posted in criminal justice

One Response

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  1. Generally, I am not very fond of politics on the whole – however, occasionally we all have to pay attention. There are a few excellent points made here, and I’m paying attention – thanks.

    Demarcus Derosset

    February 9, 2010 at 9:52 pm


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