Lead data journalist

The potential death of suspects is seen as a risk worth taking by all sections of society

Dalian Atkinson, a former Aston Villa player, died earlier this week after being tasered by police at his father’s house. Atkinson joins a handful of people in the UK who have died after being tasered since police forces began to use the weapons in 2003.

Tasers were introduced to provide officers as a less dangerous alternative to guns. But the death of Atkinson has once again brought into question whether the use of a weapon which has contributed to people’s deaths is a risk worth taking in order to keep police safe.

YouGov put the issue to the public on Tuesday, and the results are clear. Nearly six in ten people (58%) believe that the risk of a suspect’s death is worth taking, more than twice as many as those who disagreed and wanted to see tasers withdrawn until a safer method could be devised (28%). A further 14% of people weren’t sure.

Whilst the continued use of tasers is the favoured option across the whole political spectrum, supporters of right wing political parties are much more strongly in favour. Nearly three quarters of Conservative voters (73%) and UKIP voters (72%) think that the risk of suspect death is a risk worth taking to keep police safe, compared to 50% of Labour voters and 46% of SNP voters. Lib Dem voters sat in between, on 63%.

Men felt particularly strongly that tasers should be kept in circulation when compared to women, with nearly two thirds (64%) of men thinking the risk of death was worth taking compared to 52% of women. Age plays a factor as well, with people being more in favour of taser use the older they get – 53% of 18-24 year olds wanted to keep tasers in use compared to 61% of those aged 60 or over.

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