Study: Soda Tax Support Low Overall; Higher Among Millennials, College Grads, Democrats


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A new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine finds predictably low support for soda taxes or soda size restrictions among Americans. Less than a quarter (22 percent) of U.S. adults favor soda taxes and just over a quarter (26 percent) favor portion size restrictions.

"Examining several determinants of support simultaneously, Democrats and those with negative views of soda companies are more likely to support these policies," states the study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Healthy Eating Research program. That's unsurprising. But more surprising—or at least disappointing—is that millennials overall also showed greater support for sugary drink taxes. 

For the study, researchers surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 18- to 64-year-olds on a several public health policy proposals. They found greater public support for adding front-of-package nutrition labels to sugary drinks (65 percent), barring soda and sugary drink sales from public schools (62 percent), and prohibiting advertisements for sugary drinks to air during children's TV programming (50 percent).

"I think these findings reflect public enthusiasm for regulation that maintains a value on consumer choice in the marketplace rather than government intervention," said lead author Sarah Gollust, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. But they show tolerance for "more paternalism in restricting the choices available to children," she noted. 

Interestingly, parents of children under 18 showed similar levels of support for school beverage bans as those without younger children. The study also found similar attitudes among overweight/obese individuals and those classified as normal weight.

But differences emerged when age, gender, income, and education level came into play. College-educated adults were more likely to support most of the proposed policies, with the exception of soda size restrictions and requiring TV stations to provide free air time for health propaganda (a measure supported by a disturbing 51 percent of all respondents). 

Women overall were more in favor of sugary drink size restrictions and restricting soda advertising to children. Support didn't generally differ among age groups, except that 18- to 29-year-olds were 57 percent more likely to support soda taxes than older respondents. Those with higher incomes were the least likely to support such taxes.