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Publication - Research Publication

Public attitudes towards people with drug dependence and people in recovery

Published: 10 Jun 2016

Research into public attitudes in Scotland towards people with a history of drug dependence

50 page PDF


50 page PDF


Public attitudes towards people with drug dependence and people in recovery
Method and Sample

50 page PDF


Method and Sample

Research method

The data was gathered by Progressive Partnership using the YouGov online omnibus survey. Respondents were drawn from a panel of over 30,000 members from all sections of the Scottish population. YouGov drew a sub‑sample of its panel that was representative of Scottish adults in terms of age, gender and social class, and invited this sub-sample to complete the survey. Only this sub-sample had access to the questionnaire via their username and password, and respondents could only ever answer the survey once. All questionnaires were self-completed.

Respondents were sent an email inviting them to take part in the survey. YouGov's sampling system randomly selected respondents from its available panel, and allocated the survey according to the quotas set for a nationally representative sample. The email message included a link taking respondents to the YouGov website where the survey was hosted. Everyone taking part received a modest cash incentive of under a pound for doing so.

Fieldwork was conducted between 15 and 17 March 2016. Once the survey was complete, the final data were statistically weighted to the national profile of all adults aged 18+, based on age, gender, social class and region.

The questionnaire

The survey questionnaire consisted of:

  • A set of 25 attitude statements about drug dependence
  • A set of 6 statements about the perceived acceptability of different types of drug use
  • Two questions about respondents' personal experience: one about recreational drug use and one about drug dependence.

A copy of the questionnaire is provided in Appendix 1.

The attitude statements were the same as those used in the previous UKDPC survey, with some minor amendments to ensure clarity and ease of understanding. These statements had previously been grouped into categories based on factor analysis (see the previous report [3] for full details) and analysis is presented in this report with statements grouped in the same way.

Ethics and informed consent

To ensure that respondents could give informed consent, and to reflect the sensitive nature of the research, this section of the omnibus started by asking:

"The following questions are about drug use and drug dependence. We understand this may be a sensitive topic but please remember your answers will always be treated anonymously and will never be analysed individually. There will also be the option to select "Prefer not to say" where appropriate. Are you happy to continue with this section of the survey?"

In addition, at the end of the question set, respondents were provided with website addresses for Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol or Drugs, the Scottish Recovery Consortium and Addaction, in case they had been affected by, or wanted more information on the topic of drug dependence.

Sample profile

In total, 1,114 questionnaires were completed, with a very low opt-out rate (2%). The final achieved sample for analysis (with opt outs removed) was 1,089. The weighted sample profile is outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Sample profile

% %
Gender Region
Male 48% North East Scotland 14%
Female 52% Highlands and Islands 9%
South Scotland 14%
Age West Scotland 10%
18-24 12% Central 16%
25-34 14% Mid Scotland and Fife 11%
35-44 18% Lothians 14%
45-54 19% Glasgow 12%
55+ 37%
Working status
Socio-economic group [4] Working full time 40%
AB C1 45% Working part time 13%
C2 DE 55% Full time student 8%
Retired 23%
Unemployed 8%
Not working / other 9%

Base (All): 1089

In addition to the standard demographic data, responses were analysed based on personal experience of recreational drug use and drug dependence (see the following section for further analysis of these questions). Table 2 outlines the groups used for this analysis.

Table 2: Sample profile by personal experience

Experience of recreational drug use % Experience of drug dependence %
Personal experience 20% Personal experience 3%
Other experience only 50% Other experience only 37%
No experience 31% No experience 60%

Base (All excluding 'prefer not to say'): Q3 1034, Q4 1041

Respondents classified within the 'personal experience' code were those who stated that they themselves had ever used recreational drugs or had ever been dependant on illegal drugs. Those classified as having 'other experience only' were respondents who had no direct personal experience themselves, but reported that friends, family or acquaintances had ever used recreational drugs or had ever been dependent on drugs.

Further analysis by this question can be found within the 'Research Findings' section of this report.

Analysis and reporting

Analysis was conducted by looking at sub-groups defined by socio-economic group, age, gender and experience (either direct personal experience or other experience through friends/family etc) of recreational drug use and drug dependence.

The sampling technique used was quota controlled to achieve a representative sample of the Scottish general public; use of quotas means it was a non-probability sample. The margin of error should therefore be treated as indicative, based on an equivalent probability sample. The margin of error for the total sample of 1,089 is ±0.86% to ±3.07%.

Any differences noted in this report are significant at the 95% confidence level (p<0.05), the market research industry standard.

Time series comparisons

One of the stated aims of the research was to build on and facilitate comparisons with the previous UKDPC study. The previous research also used an omnibus to gather the data; however, on that occasion a face-to-face method was adopted. The change in method to an online survey may have had an impact on the findings, and this should be borne in mind when making comparisons between the two studies. In particular, people can be more likely to state positive, or socially accepted views to an interviewer face-to-face, than they would when completing an anonymous online survey. The online approach used in this study was more likely to elicit accurate and honest responses, but does mean that findings are not directly comparable to the previous research.

Comparison data is therefore presented as a separate section in this report, although these limitations should be borne in mind when interpreting these findings. The research findings from this study set a national baseline measure of attitudes in Scotland for future tracking using an online method.

Reporting conventions

Throughout this report, significant differences in the data are noted where they occur, to the 95% confidence level. Only significant differences are reported, and the word 'significant' refers to statistical significance. Where comparisons do not include a specific sub-group in the reporting, this is because that particular sub-group did not give a significantly different response to the one being referred to.

Standard notification is used in tables with '*' used to indicate results of less than 1% and '-' used to indicate no respondents gave a particular answer. For ease of reading the results, '1%' and '2%' notations have been left off some of the charts. In instances where percentages quoted in the text do not match the sum of two figures in the charts, this is due to rounding.