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., USA – March 20, 2012 – 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”?
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
- 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.