Well Being

Obesity In America Poll Finds Us Split On Government Role In Fighting Fat

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American public opinion tends to be polarized on just about everything, so it's no surprise that we're split on the proper role of government in fighting obesity in America. A new poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that while a third of Americans think the government should be “deeply involved” in finding ways to curb U.S. obesity rates, another third want little or no government intervention (the rest fell somewhere in the middle).

Three-quarters consider obesity a “serious health problem” — second only to cancer as the country's most serious health issue (diabetes and heart disease tied for third). Yet most also believe that dealing with it is up to individuals and balk at government policies that limit food choices or try to force healthier eating.

  • Nearly 60% are against imposing extra taxes on sugar beverages or junk food
  • 75% oppose New York City's recent ban on big sodas
vegetables left over by students on their cafeteria trays at the Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles

Vegetables left over by students on their cafeteria trays at the Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File

But people support requiring more physical activity in schools (80%) and government-backed nutritional guidelines (also 80%). And 70% support mandatory menu labeling laws that require restaurants to post calorie counts.

As far as the causes of obesity:

  • 80% think too much TV and computer time is one of the most important factors
  • Cheap, easily-accessible junk food and a lack of desire or knowledge about how to control weight were also cited as top causes

Most people have easy access to supermarkets, but most people also have easy access to fast food.

  • 68% say it's easy for kids to buy junk food on their way to school
  • 63% say it's hard to run errands or get around without a car

Women are more likely than men to blame “the high cost of healthy food” as a factor in our obesity epidemic (nearly half of women agree, compared to 37% of men) and to agree that the food industry should bear more responsibility.