The Politics of Obesity

An overweight child with junk food in front of her. (stock photo)

Obesity for both adults and children is a serious public health concern in California according to two polls released this week, but opinions on what should be done about it can differ substantially depending on a person’s political party.

A survey of 2,504 California adults by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 75 percent considered obesity a “very serious” health problem. But break it down by party affiliation and you find that 83 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of those in small parties or with no party affiliation hold that view, compared with 65 percent of Republicans.

A similar partisan finding showed up in a survey by The Field Poll. The poll of 1,005 Californians showed that 67 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of those with no affiliation or who belonged to other political parties, felt childhood obesity was a “very serious” problem. Just 48 percent of Republicans felt that way.

Both polls were paid for by the California Endowment.

An even greater gulf between Democrats and Republicans exists when the question centers on who is responsible for the obesity epidemic.

In the Public Policy Institute survey, 62 percent of Democrats say obesity is both an individual and government responsibility. However, 63 percent of Republicans say it’s an individual responsibility.

Childhood obesity, according to those who responded to the Field Poll, is the responsibility of the entire community in the view of 59 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of those with no party affiliation or who belonged to “other” parties. Just 29 percent of Republicans saw it as a community responsibility, while 58 percent of the GOP responders considered childhood obesity a personal issue.

Opinions also varied depending on gender, with 64 percent of women seeing childhood obesity as very serious while 53 percent of men held that opinion.

Fifty three percent of women say childhood obesity is a community responsibility while 43 percent of men held that view.



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