Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Government Solutions For Obesity


Obesity is a crisis, we’re told, and it demands government regulation to fix. But as policies micromanaging our lifestyles are pushed across the nation, most Americans say that while they know they’re fat, obesity is a problem for individuals to solve.

According to a new Associated Press poll, three-quarters of Americans oppose government restrictions on what food they can buy – such as Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban, a majority of Americans oppose “fat taxes” being imposed on certain foods and while three-quarters of Americans consider obesity a serious problem, most believe it is a problem for individuals to solve, not the government.

A third of people say the government should be deeply involved in finding solutions to the epidemic. A similar proportion want it to play little or no role, and the rest are somewhere in the middle, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Require more physical activity in school, or provide nutritional guidelines to help people make better choices? Sure, 8 in 10 support those steps. Make restaurants post calorie counts on their menus, as the Food and Drug Administration is poised to do? Some 70 percent think it’s a good idea.

“That’s a start,” said Khadijah Al-Amin, 52, of Coatesville, Pa. “The fat content should be put up there in red letters, not just put up there. The same way they mark something that’s poisonous, so when you see it, you absolutely know.”

But nearly 6 in 10 people surveyed oppose taxes targeting unhealthy foods, known as soda taxes or fat taxes.

And when it comes to restricting what people can buy — like New York City’s recent ban of supersized sodas in restaurants — three-quarters say, “No way.”

“The outlawing of sugary drinks, that’s just silly,” said Keith Donner, 52, of Miami, who prefers teaching schoolchildren to eat better and get moving.
“People should just look at a Big Gulp and say, ‘That’s not for me.’ I think it starts when they are young and at school,” he added.

There is far too much faith put in the government’s ability to fix every problem presented it. And I do think obesity is a problem. I don’t think it’s the crisis some make it out to be, but it’s not a positive development in our society either.

But I also believe that the solution to obesity must come from Americans themselves. They – I should say we given my own girth – need to choose to be healthier. The government cannot wave its magic wand and make Americans live healthier lives any more than it was able to stop people from drinking alcohol. Or using recreational narcotics, for that matter.

“Very little good has ever been done by the absolute shall,” according to an anonymous clergyman quoted in Ken Burns’ excellent documentary Prohibition.

That’s a powerful insight.