Many Americans Ambivalent Over Laws Aimed at Healthy Living: Poll Most accept rules for safety, smoking, eating, but also worry about a 'nanny state'

NORWALK, Conn., March 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- With a recent flood of new regulations or proposals aimed at governing lifestyle choices such as smoking, eating or cellphone use, is the United States in danger of becoming a "nanny state"?

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100517/NY06256LOGO)

According to a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll released today, most Americans remain ambivalent about the issue, agreeing that policies that aim to protect public health and safety are sometimes necessary, but believing as well that adults should take responsibility for their own actions, and consequences for health.

Eighty-one percent of respondents agreed and 33 percent strongly agreed that laws aimed at protecting public safety -- for example, regulations around safe driving or childhood vaccinations -- are important to keeping Americans safe.

More than three-quarters also agreed that such initiatives do actually work. But on the other hand, almost two-thirds (61 percent) worried that these same laws might be too coercive, impeding individual freedoms.

"The public is somewhat schizophrenic about laws and policies that are intended to improve health and safety and reduce injuries and accidents," said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll. "Most people favor many regulations that protect them but they worry about our becoming a 'nanny state.'"

The poll released today quizzed respondents on 14 different policies, laws and programs intended to improve health and safety.  Some of the findings include:

  • 91 percent supported a ban on texting while driving, while 74 percent "strongly" supported this initiative.
  • 70 percent support, 43 percent strongly support banning talking on cellphones while driving.
  • 78 percent support, 34 percent strongly support requiring eating establishments to reveal nutritional information on menus.
  • 86 percent support, 55 percent strongly support requiring the regular round of childhood vaccinations (mumps, measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis and polio).
  • 80 percent support, 58 percent strongly support banning smoking in restaurants and public places.
  • 76 percent opposed, 43 percent strongly opposed employers citing obesity as a reason not to hire.
  • 65 percent opposed, 34 percent strongly opposed employers not hiring smokers.
  • 62 percent against, 37 percent strongly against the taxing of sugar-sweetened soft drinks.

And even as they supported many individual initiatives aimed at protecting the public good, 81 percent of respondents agreed that individuals should take responsibility for their own actions and "be free to make their own decisions, even if they suffer as a result." One expert stressed that a balance must be struck between maintaining both public health and individual freedoms.

The poll included 2,211 U.S adults over age 18 surveyed online between Feb. 27-29, 2012, by Harris Interactive, one of the world's leading custom market research firms. HealthDay is a leading producer and syndicator of health news.

The complete findings of the newest joint Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll are available here.  HealthDay's news report is available here. Full data on the poll and its methodology are available at Harris Interactive.

About HealthDay
HealthDay is a leading producer and syndicator of evidence-based health news for consumers and physicians and is one of the largest health news syndicators to Internet sites. Its daily consumer health news service http://consumer.healthday.com/ appears on more than 5,000 websites such as Yahoo!, MSN Health, USNews.com, Everyday Health, and government websites like Healthfinder.gov, and MedlinePlus. A daily video version of the top health news story of the day is featured on HealthDay TV, a 90-second daily news broadcast appearing on several major media and U.S. government websites.

HealthDay also produces Physician's Briefing (www.physiciansbriefing.com), a daily news service for physicians and other medical professionals. This service is licensed to hospitals, managed care organizations, media companies, and point of care providers like Epocrates.

HealthDay's custom content division produces specialized content for a variety of audiences and works with some of the larger health portals in the United States.

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.  


TABLE 1
SUPPORT OR OPPOSE FOURTEEN WAYS TO IMPROVE HEALTH AND SAFETY
"Below is a list of laws, policies and programs that have been implemented or proposed as ways to improve health and safety. Please indicate how strongly you support or oppose each one."

Base:  All Adults

 

 

Strongly/

Somewhat Support (Net)

Strongly Support

Somewhat Support

Strongly/

Somewhat Oppose (Net)

Somewhat Oppose

Strongly Oppose

Banning texting while driving

%

91

74

17

9

5

3

Requiring the vaccination of young children against mumps, measles, whooping cough, TB, polio and other diseases

%

86

55

31

14

8

5

Requiring drivers and passengers in the front seats to wear seat belts

%

86

66

20

14

9

5

Requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets

%

82

57

25

18

11

7

Banning smoking in restaurants and other enclosed public places

%

80

58

23

20

10

10

Requiring restaurants to show nutritional information on menus

%

78

34

43

22

14

8

Requiring bicyclists to wear helmets

%

73

42

32

27

17

10

Banning the overall use of cell phones while driving

%

70

43

27

30

20

10

Regulations to reduce salt in packaged foods

%

68

27

41

32

20

12

Banning the use of trans fats in restaurants

%

62

26

36

38

22

15

Requiring the vaccination of children ages 11-12 against HPV, the virus that can cause cervical cancer

%

61

23

38

39

23

16

Putting a new tax on soft drinks with high sugar content

%

38

13

25

62

25

37

Employers not hiring people who smoke because it could cost more to insure them

%

35

12

23

65

31

34

Employers not hiring people who are obese because it could cost more to insure them

%

24

7

18

76

33

43

Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

 


TABLE 2
AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH FOUR STATEMENTS ABOUT RULES TO IMPROVE HEALTH AND SAFETY
"How strongly do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?"

Base:  All Adults

 

 

Strongly/

Somewhat Agree (Net)

Strongly Agree

Somewhat Agree

Strongly/

Somewhat Disagree (Net)

Somewhat Disagree

Strongly Disagree

People should take personal responsibility for their own actions and be free to make their own decisions, even if they suffer as a result

%

81

41

41

19

14

5

Laws, policies and programs like those listed in the previous question are sometimes necessary to prevent us from being hurt by the actions of other people who cause accidents or do other dangerous things

%

81

33

49

19

13

6

Laws, policies and programs like those listed in the previous question reduce accidents, improve health, save lives and save money spent on healthcare

%

78

28

50

22

15

6

Laws, policies and programs like those listed in the previous question are turning us into a "nanny state" where we rely too much on the government to protect us from danger

%

61

27

34

39

25

14

Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.


Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States February 27-29, 2012 among 2,211 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal. 

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Full data available at www.harrisinteractive.com

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. 

Press Contact:

Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive
212-539-9600
press@harrisinteractive.net

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCE Harris Interactive



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