The recent furore over Diane Abbott drinking on a London Overground train ended up, predictably, in a tedious debate. Was she wrong to do so? Was she wrong to apologise? Were the people attacking her prigs or racists? Were the people defending her self-righteous hypocrites? In all of this, one question tended to get overlooked. Do Londoners like the policy?
So in the latest round of Queen Mary University of London’s Polling London project – which also covered the various forthcoming elections – we asked about this specifically. Polling was conducted online by YouGov between 7 and 10 May 2019 and the sample was of 1,015 Londoners, weighted to be representative of all London adults aged 18 and over.
We asked, first, whether people support the ban or not. Overwhelmingly, by 84 per cent to nine per cent, the Londoners surveyed said they do. A further seven percent did not know. This support is remarkably consistent across a range of demographics, with clear majority support whether respondents are male or female, young or old, white or black, or live in Inner or Outer London. The most supportive are the oldest – those aged 65 and over – of whom 95 per cent back the ban. The least supportive are those aged 18-24, where support falls to 71 per cent. But, as this last figure shows, even the least supportive group are overwhelmingly supportive.
We also asked whether people had personally drunk alcohol on public transport since the ban was introduced. This is the sort of question where not everyone might answer honestly, so we should allow for a pinch of salt with some respondents. But still an overwhelming majority – 82 per cent of Londoners – say they have not drunk alcohol on the Transport for London network since the ban came in, compared to 13 per cent who say they have. Five percent said they can’t remember. YouGov sadly vetoed my suggestion of allowing people to respond that they couldn’t remember because they were too drunk.
Again, this finding is remarkably consistent across the demographic groups – just one per cent of those aged 65 or over say they have broken the ban, rising to 34 per cent of 18-24 year olds. Of those who said they oppose the ban, a slightly larger proportion (37 per cent) say they have drunk while on public transport (although remember this is 37 per cent of a just nine per cent), and there was a tiny group of happy hypocrites, who supported the ban but admitted that they themselves may well not have upheld it (nine per cent of those who backed the ban had had a drink while on public transport).
For all the ho-ha when it was introduced – and all the cant over the recent photo of Diane Abbott – this is a policy Londoners overwhelmingly back.
Philip Cowley is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London. Follow him on Twitter.
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