Source: People Press.org
Most Americans (69%) see obesity as a very serious public health problem, substantially more than the percentages viewing alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and AIDS in the same terms. In addition, a broad majority believes that obesity is not just a problem that affects individuals: 63% say obesity has consequences for society beyond the personal impact on individuals. Just 31% say it impacts the individuals who are obese but not society more broadly.
Yet, the public has mixed opinions about what, if anything, the government should do about the issue. A 54% majority does not want the government to play a significant role in reducing obesity, while 42% say the government should play a significant role. And while some proposals for reducing obesity draw broad support, others are decidedly unpopular.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 6 among 2,003 adults, finds that two-thirds (67%) favor requiring chain restaurants to list calorie counts on menus. But just 31% support limits on the size of sugary soft drinks in restaurants and convenience stores – 67% oppose this idea. More than half (55%) favor banning TV ads of unhealthy foods during children’s programming, but barely a third (35%) supports raising taxes on sugary soft drinks and unhealthy foods. On each of these policies, Democrats and women are more supportive than Republicans, independents and men.
The survey was conducted before the Food and Drug Administration’s proposal last Thursday to severely restrict trans fats nationwide.) 1
While most agree that obesity is a very serious public health problem, the public is divided as to whether the country is making progress or losing ground in dealing with obesity. Slightly more people say the U.S. is losing ground (34%) than making progress (28%), with 36% saying things are about the same as they have been…
About six-in-ten Americans (63%) say obesity has consequences for society that go beyond personal impact. Only about half as many (31%) say obesity does not have a major societal impact beyond the individual level. Majorities in virtually every demographic and political subgroup say obesity has social consequences beyond the individuals affected.
Republicans (60%), Democrats (67%) and independents (63%) are about equally likely to say obesity has social consequences, as are men (62%) and women (64%). Perhaps the biggest divide is by education: 76% of college graduates say obesity has social consequences beyond the individuals affected, compared with 68% of those with some college and 51% of those with a high school degree or less.
Among those younger than 30, 55% say obesity has consequences for society beyond the personal impacts, 39% say it does not have a major societal impact. Among older age groups, about three-in-ten say obesity does not have a major impact on society.
Limited Support for Government Role in Reducing Obesity
While most see obesity as a substantial public health issue, there is limited support for the government playing a major role in anti-obesity efforts. Overall, 42% say government should play a significant role in reducing obesity, 54% say it should not.
How much can the government do to reduce obesity? Roughly six-in-ten believe government policies and programs can do “a lot” (26%) or “some” (35%); about one-in-five (22%) say that government policies can do “not much” and 14% say they can do “nothing at all” to reduce obesity.