- First ever poll of Red Wall voters on assisted dying finds 72% of voters in Red Wall seats support legalisation of assisted dying; 9% opposed
- Support even higher amongst Conservative voters (76%) and Leave voters (75%)
- Focus groups in Red Wall and Blue Wall seats find overwhelming support for assisted dying
Research undertaken by JL Partners has found that the overwhelming majority of voters in Red Wall seats support assisted dying. The first ever survey of the Red Wall on the subject reveals 72% of people support assisted dying for terminally ill adults of sound mind, compared to just 9% who are opposed to a change in the law. Conservative voters (76%) and Leave voters (75%) are even more likely to support law change.
The research, commissioned by Dignity in Dying, found that 43% of those surveyed had cared for or witnessed a friend or family member who suffered unbearably towards the end of life. A third of respondents said they had cared for a loved one who they would have liked to have had the right to an assisted death.
Focus groups conducted alongside the Red Wall poll found huge similarities between Tory voters in the Red Wall, swing voters in the Blue Wall, and Conservative Party members, where participants were strongly in favour of assisted dying. Many focus group participants thought assisted dying chimed closely with Conservative values because it represented an issue of personal choice.
The research also found that people were also generally unaware that assisted dying was permitted in parts of the USA and Australia, and nationwide in Canada and New Zealand. When told of these developments, participants found comfort that assisted dying had been legalised in countries similar to the UK, but thought this meant the UK was being left behind, compared to “pioneering” and “ahead of the game” countries where assisted dying was permitted.
Half of those polled felt more positively about assisted dying in the UK due to the legalisation of assisted dying overseas.
The poll also found widespread support for assisted dying to be made available on the NHS if it were to be legalised, with two thirds (67%) agreeing. Focus group participants also strongly agreed with the idea, to ensure that choice is not only available to “the rich and privileged”. This was seen as contrary to the current situation where seeking an assisted death in Switzerland through organisations like Dignitas was an option available only to those with the resources to afford it.
James Johnson of JL Partners, who conducted the research, said:
“Our research found very significant support in the Red Wall for assisted dying, by a margin of 72% supporting and only 9% opposing. In the context of policies I’ve tested over the years, that is a really significant margin – and it’s even larger amongst Conservative voters.
“We also found that voters are persuaded of the effectiveness of the safeguards built into the proposed assisted dying laws, and that ultimately the vast majority of people see this as a matter of personal choice.”
Helen Thomas, 59, is a business-owner who lives in the constituency of Hyndburn, which was won by the Conservatives in 2019. Helen witnessed her daughter Gemma Nuttall, a dental nurse, suffering unbearably from terminal cancer before she died in 2018. Helen said:
“My beautiful daughter was diagnosed with womb cancer while she was pregnant at the age of just 25. The next few weeks, months and years were a blur of surgeries, chemotherapy, remissions and relapses, even trips to Germany on a three-weekly basis for treatments which weren’t available here. But in the end the cancer had spread throughout her body and we were unable to stop it. Gemma died over several days in a hospice and while all efforts were made to keep her comfortable and sedated, she did not go peacefully or quietly.
“My own experiences reflect a major finding of the research: the importance of choice. Gemma did not choose to get cancer, did not choose to die, and most certainly would not have chosen to die in the way she did, had the option of assisted dying been available to her. We need a new law so that dying people like my daughter need not suffer in their final days of life, against their wishes.”
Tom Davies, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Dignity in Dying, said:
“We’ve long known that assisted dying is a policy that unites the country, across all demographics and political leanings. This is the first time that voters in the all-important Red Wall seats have been asked for their views and the results are clear: an overwhelming majority support a change in the law to permit dying adults of sound mind to have choice and control over their deaths.
“With the House of Lords, the Scottish Parliament and the States of Jersey due to debate assisted dying proposals in the coming weeks and months, and the recent news that the BMA has dropped its longstanding opposition to assisted dying, there has never been a greater likelihood of assisted dying being legalised in the UK. Evidence from overseas demonstrates that assisted dying laws are safe, compassionate and robust; this research demonstrates that they would be incredibly popular too.”