This paper explores the competing influences which inform public health policy and describes the role that research evidence plays within the policy-making process. In particular it draws on a recent English alcohol policy case study to assess the role of evidence in informing policy and practice. Semi-structured interviews with key national, regional and local policy informants were transcribed and analysed thematically. A strong theme identified was that of the role of evidence. Findings are discussed in the context of competing views on what constitutes appropriate evidence for policy making.