November 10, 2017

It’s Official: Australians support assisted dying or euthanasia

Topic: Most Important Issues, Press Release, Public Opinion
Finding No: 7373
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It’s Official: A large majority of Australians, 87% (up a significant 18% from May 1996) are in favour of ‘letting patients die when they are hopelessly ill and experiencing unrelievable suffering with no chance of recovery’ compared to 10% (down 7%) who say doctors should ‘try to keep patients alive’ and 3% (down 11%) who are undecided.

In addition a large majority of Australians, 85% (up 11% from May 1996) are in favour of allowing a doctor to ‘give a lethal dose when a patient is hopelessly ill with no chance of recovery and asks for a lethal dose’ compared to 15% (down 3%) who say a doctor should ‘not be allowed to give a lethal dose’.

This special Roy Morgan Snap SMS Survey was conducted on the night of November 2, 2017 with a representative cross-section of 1,386 Australians aged 18+.

Questions:

“A question on hopelessly ill people experiencing unrelievable suffering. If there’s absolutely no chance of a patient recovering, should the doctor let the patient die – or should the doctor try to keep the patient alive as long as possible?

”Respondents who answered were then asked: “If a hopelessly ill patient with no chance of recovering asks for a lethal dose, should a doctor be allowed to give a lethal dose, or not?"

Historical Trends: Should a doctor let a patient die?

In 1946, when Roy Morgan first asked this question the Australian population was divided. 42% said ‘let the patient die’, 41% said ‘try to keep the patient alive’ and 17% were undecided. Since then support has increased fairly consistently.

Since the last poll in 1996 there has been a substantial increase in support of letting patients die. Now 87% of respondents support ‘letting patient die’, up 18% since 1996.  

Nov
1946
May
1955
Oct
1962
Nov
1978
Sep
1983
Apr
1986
Apr
1987
Apr
1989
  % % % % % % % %
Let patient die 42 53 54 60 65 68 67 66
Try to keep patient alive 41 38 32 23 18 16 21 20
Undecided 17 9 14 17 17 16 12 14
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Jul
1990
Jul
1991
Mar
1992
May
1993
May
1994
Jun
1995
May
1996
Nov
2017
  % % % % % % % %
Let patient die 71 69 73 73 71 71 69 87
Try to keep patient alive 19 21 18 15 13 15 17 10
Undecided 10 10 9 12 16 14 14 3
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Analysis by Voting Preference: Should a doctor let a patient die?

Analysis of supporters of various political parties shows large majorities of supporters of all parties support ‘letting the patient die’ led by 91% of Greens voters, 88% of National voters 87% of ALP voters and 86% of Liberal voters. 

Total Electors Liberal National ALP Greens Other Can’t say
  % % % % % % % %
Let patient die 87 86 86 88 87 91 74 92
Try to keep patient alive 10 10 11 12 9 5 22 8
Undecided 3 4 3 4 4 4
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Analysis by Gender & Age: Should a doctor let a patient die?

Analysing by gender shows that large majorities of women (89%) and men 84% are in favour of ‘letting patients die and respondents of all age groups, especially older respondents, are in favour of ‘letting patients die’. 

Total Gender Age
Men Women 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+
  % % % % % % % %
Let patient die 87 84 89 87 78 88 89 90
Try to keep patient alive 10 11 9 9 16 9 8 9
Undecided 3 5 2 4 6 3 3 1
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Analysis by State: Should a doctor let a patient die?

Analysis by state shows that a clear majority of all states are in favour of ‘letting patients die’. 92% of Tasmanians 92% support ‘letting patients die’ but all other states and city and country areas are more than 80% in favour. 

Total State Region
NSW VIC QLD WA SA TAS City Country
  % % % % % % % % %
Let patient die 87 84 85 88 89 90 92 85 90
Try to keep patient alive 10 11 12 10 7 8 3 11 7
Undecided 3 5 3 2 4 2 5 4 3
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Historical Trends: Should a doctor be allowed to give a patient a lethal dose?

In 1962 when Roy Morgan first asked this question the population was divided – more favouring allowing a doctor to give a lethal dose (47%) than not (39%) and 14% undecided. Support increased consistently over the years to 1996.

There has also been a marked increase in support of allowing doctors ‘giving a lethal dose’ since the last survey in 1996. Now a large majority of 85% of respondents say a doctor should be allowed to ‘give a patient a lethal dose’ compared to 74% of respondents in 1996. 

Nov
1946
May
1955
Oct
1962
Nov
1978
Sep
1983
Apr
1986
Apr
1987
Apr
1989
  % % % % % % % %
Give lethal dose n/a n/a 47 67 67 66 75 71
Not give lethal dose n/a n/a 39 22 21 21 18 20
Undecided n/a n/a 14 11 12 13 7 9
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Jul
1990
Jul
1991
Mar
1992
May
1993
May
1994
Jun
1995
May
1996
Nov
2017
  % % % % % % % %
Give lethal dose 77 73 76 78 78 78 74 85
Not give lethal dose 17 20 18 15 13 14 18 15
Undecided 6 7 6 7 9 8 8
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Analysis by Voting Preference: Should a doctor be allowed to give a patient a lethal dose?

Analysis of supporters of various political parties shows 95% of Greens voters support allowing doctors to ‘give a lethal dose’ ahead of ALP voters on 87% and Liberal and National voters, both on 81%. 

Total Electors Liberal National ALP Greens Other Can’t say
  % % % % % % % %
Give lethal dose 85 84 81 81 87 95 72 63
Not give lethal dose 15 16 19 19 13 5 28 37
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Analysis by Gender & Age: Should a doctor be allowed to give a patient a lethal dose?

Analysing patterns by gender shows that a larger majority of women (86%) are in favour of allowing doctors ‘give a lethal dose’ compared to 83% of men.

Analysing by age group shows all age groups have large majorities in favour of allowing doctors to ‘give a lethal dose’ with 18-24yr olds (92%) the most in favour compared to those aged 65+ (81%). 

Total Gender Age
Men Women 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+
  % % % % % % % %
Give lethal dose 85 83 86 92 84 85 84 81
Not give lethal dose 15 17 14 8 16 15 16 19
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Analysis by State: Should a doctor be allowed to give a patient a lethal dose?

Support for allowing doctors to ‘give a lethal dose’ is also consistent across the country with clear majorities in all six States in favour of allowing doctors to ‘give a lethal dose’ to patients. The State with the largest support is Western Australia in which 88% of respondents support allowing doctors to ‘give a lethal dose’. All other states and city and country areas are over 80% in support of allowing doctors to ‘give a lethal dose’. 

Total State Region
NSW VIC QLD WA SA TAS City Country
  % % % % % % % % %
Give lethal dose 85 82 86 86 88 83 85 83 88
Not give lethal dose 15 18 14 14 12 17 15 17 12
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Michele Levine, Chief Executive Officer, Roy Morgan Research, says:

Block Quote

“Australians have overwhelmingly backed the right of doctors to administer lethal doses to patients in a result that supports the Victorian Government’s euthanasia legislation recently passed by both houses of the Victorian Parliament.

“A large majority of 87% of Australians (up 18% since May 1996) say doctors should allow ‘hopelessly ill patients experiencing unrelievable suffering to die’ and almost as many, 85% (up 11% since May 1996) say doctors should be allowed to ‘give a lethal dose’ to a patient with no chance of recovering.

“Support for both contentions is exceedingly strong amongst supporters of all major political parties (above 80% for both questions), amongst both genders (above 80% for both questions), amongst all age groups (above 75% for both questions) and in all Australian States (above 80% for both questions).

“Although the question of euthanasia has always provoked a great deal of debate, the views of the Australian public has decisively moved in favour of the action over the last two decades.

“From the first surveys in the 1940s, 50s and 60s there was a consistent increase in support then between 1987 and 1996 support for doctors allowing hopelessly ill patients to die barely changed (67% in April 1987 cf. 69% in May 1996), while support for allowing doctors to administer a lethal dose actually dropped over the nine years to May 1996 (75% in April 1987 cf. 74% in May 1996).

“Today’s results show that, although the Victorian euthanasia legislation is the first time an Australian State has passed legislation allowing euthanasia, the State Government is unlikely to suffer any political fallout from the move.”

Finding No. 7373 – This special Roy Morgan Snap SMS Survey was conducted as the Victorian Parliament debates contentious legislation concerning the potential legalisation of euthanasia. The survey was conducted on Thursday November 2, 2017 with a representative cross-section of 1,386 Australians. “A question on hopelessly ill people experiencing unrelievable suffering. If there’s absolutely no chance of a patient recovering, should the doctor let the patient die – or should the doctor try to keep the patient alive as long as possible?” Respondents who answered were then asked: “If a hopelessly ill patient with no chance of recovering asks for a lethal dose, should a doctor be allowed to give a lethal dose, or not?”

*To clarify the status of the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill at the time this poll was conducted. The Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill has passed the Victorian Lower House and has passed its Second Reading in the Victorian Upper House. The bill now faces further amendments before the Third Reading. After the Third Reading the Bill will be passed into law with Governor’s royal assent.


For further information:

Contact Office Mobile
Gary Morgan: +61 3 9224 5213 +61 411 129 094
Michele Levine: +61 3 9224 5215 +61 411 129 093

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size Percentage Estimate
40% – 60% 25% or 75% 10% or 90% 5% or 95%
1,000 ±3.0 ±2.7 ±1.9 ±1.3
5,000 ±1.4 ±1.2 ±0.8 ±0.6
7,500 ±1.1 ±1.0 ±0.7 ±0.5
10,000 ±1.0 ±0.9 ±0.6 ±0.4
20,000 ±0.7 ±0.6 ±0.4 ±0.3
50,000 ±0.4 ±0.4 ±0.3 ±0.2

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