Support for legalising euthanasia dips, but majority still in favour - poll

Source: 1News

Support for legalising euthanasia has dropped, according to the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll - despite still holding a favourable majority.

By Anna Whyte and Maiki Sherman

It comes as the question for legalising euthanasia, or sticking with the status quo, is set to go to the public on September 19. 

Those polled were asked, 'Do you think you will vote for euthanasia to be legalised, or for euthanasia to remain illegal?'

Legalise euthanasia - 65%
Remain illegal - 25%
Will not vote - 1%
Don’t know / Refused - 9% 

The groups of people who were more like likely than average to intend to vote in favour of the legalisation of euthanasia were Green Party supporters, men aged 55 and over, people with an annual household income of more than $150,000 and New Zealand Europeans. 

Those who were more likely than average to intend to vote against legalisation were Asian New Zealanders, Pacific peoples and women aged 55 and over. 

ACT leader David Seymour, who was in charge of the act, said that two-thirds of New Zealanders "want change, that's a very strong basis to start the referendum campaign from". 

"What this poll shows is that an honest campaign will see New Zealanders vote for End of Life Choice to become law, a campaign of fear, uncertainty and doubt does have the potential to chip away at that support."

National MP Agnes Loheni said "people are beginning to take some time to think about" whether or not to legalise euthanasia. 

"I stood very strongly against this bill and voted against it, as a Samoan Pacific woman, New Zealander I stand with my community who values life."

Euthanasia legislation passed its  third reading  in Parliament last November - meaning a referendum on the End of Life Choice Bill would be held at this year's election. 

If the public votes 'yes' to legalise euthanasia, the  End of Life Choice Act  would come into force 12 months after the official results are released. If it is voted down by the public, the bill will be repealed.

If passed, a person would be eligible for euthanasia if they suffer from a terminal illness and are likely to die within six months, if they are in an advanced state of irreversible physical decline and are also experiencing unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved. They also need to be competent to make an informed decision.  

A person would not be eligible for euthanasia if the only reason given is old age, having a disability or having a mental illness or disorder.

In July 2019, a month after the second reading of the End of Life Choice Act in Parliament, a  1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll  found 72 per cent of people were in favour of legalising euthanasia for those with a terminal illness or were incurably ill. Twenty per cent were against.

The July-August, 2018 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll found 76 per cent agreed with making euthanasia available, with 15 per cent against.

The July 2017 poll had 74 per cent 'yes' and 18 per cent 'no', and the July 2015 poll had 75 per cent 'yes' and 21 per cent 'no'. 

Between February 8 to 12, 1004 eligible voters were polled by landline (402) and mobile phone (602). The maximum sampling error is approximately ±3.1%-points at the 95% confidence level.

The data has been weighted to align with Stats NZ population counts for age, gender, region, ethnic identification and mobile or landline access. 

Those polled were asked: 'At the 2020 General Election, voters will be asked whether they support legalising euthanasia. The proposed laws would allow a person with less than six months to live to ask a doctor to end their life. The request must also be approved by a second doctor. At this stage, do you think you will vote for euthanasia to be legalised, or for euthanasia to remain illegal?'

The order in which the answer codes were read was reversed, so 50 per cent of respondents heard 'euthanasia to be legalised' first, and 50 per cent heard 'euthanasia to remain illegal' first.