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The Intersection of Insight and Journalism

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a nationally representative household survey with more than 1,000 adults to measure the general public’s opinions about obesity and obesity-related health issues in the United States. The survey assessed how the public understands the reasons behind the rising rates of obesity in the U.S., the connection between obesity and health issues including diabetes, and the role of government in addressing obesity. The results provide insight into the public’s perception of the severity of the obesity problem and their feeling about where responsibility lies for implementing solutions.

Significant findings include:

  • The U.S. public considers obesity second only to cancer as the most serious health issue, with conditions closely related to obesity—diabetes and heart disease—tied for third.
  • Eight out of ten people cite too much TV and computer time as the most important reason for high rates of obesity, with easy access to cheap fast food and lack of desire or knowledge about how to control one’s weight as other major factors.
  • Discrimination is an issue with 95 percent of the public believing that obese people face some level of discrimination due to their weight.
  • There is wide public understanding of the connection between obesity and the health impacts of being overweight such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • There is strong support for government policies that would add more physical activity time in schools, provide information about healthy choices, and incentives to the food industry to produce healthier options.
  • There is little support for policies that would constrain consumer choices such as limits on the amount or type of food that can be purchased or taxes on unhealthy foods or drinks.