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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 11:01 GMT
Britons 'relaxed about drugs and life'
Man smoking cannabis
The leniency over drugs was confined to cannabis
The British population is growing ever more tolerant with less racist and homophobic attitudes and a greater acceptance of cannabis, according to a survey.

More than half of those questioned favoured a legalisation of the drug.

The 19th British Social Attitudes Survey suggested that young people may be independent but do still rely on mother being at end of a phone line.


Some of the findings very much back up our commonsense feeling of how people think, that they have become more liberal

Alison Park, survey co-author

Money-saving measures were also given a high priority in the survey, conducted by the National Centre for Social Research.

Phoning parents has become a weekly affair for many young people, whose top pet hate is congestion charges.

Union woes

The report reveals that 21st century Britons are also a money-saving lot who love their cars and phone their mothers at least once a week.

The greatest change in attitude is said to be over the legalisation of cannabis - where 54% of the 3,000 people questioned agreed with legalisation.

The report - carried out annually - looked at 10 aspects of British life, including drugs, the family, race and sexuality prejudices, work, money habits, state spending, schools and transport.

Report highlights
67% would only use a bus when nothing else was available
56% of women see their mother twice a week, compared to 44% of sons
Union membership has dropped by a fifth in the last 18 years
86% of people think doctors should be able prescribe cannabis
Only one in 10 believe there is no point in voting in political elections
73% of people try to practice saving money
Source: NatCen

The popularity of trades unions was another significant change suggested by the survey.

Over the last 20 years membership of unions has dropped to "unprecedented levels" since 1945.

Despite the relaxed attitude towards cannabis, the view of heroin or ecstasy remains unchanged, with nine out of 10 still believing they should stay illegal.

The report's co-director Alison Park said: "Some of the findings very much back up our common sense feeling of how people think, that they have become more liberal."

Britons' love affair with their motor car continues, according to the research, which found that nearly two thirds of people drive at least twice a week - a seven per cent increase on figures taken in 1997.

Overburdened grandparents?

Family is a bond very difficult to break for Britons - three out of four people who no longer live at home still phone or e-mail their mothers at least once a week.

The survey found daughters fly the nest sooner than sons, but they keep in better touch with their parents.

Alison Park said: "This no doubt reflects the fact that this age group can face demands for help from both their parents and their children.

"Grandmothers in this age group were particularly likely to feel overburdened at least some of the time."

The new liberal attitude to drugs is mirrored in the way the British feel about gay people, the survey found.

Less than half (47%) of Britons believe homosexuality is "always" or "mostly" wrong, compared with 70% in 1985, and a third (33%) now say it is "not wrong at all".

Less people describe themselves as racist - although generation differences were still apparent.

The research was carried out by NatCen, Britain's largest independent social research organisation.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Social attitudes
Is Britain more tolerant?
See also:

04 Dec 02 | Politics
23 Nov 02 | Health
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