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Most New Yorkers support soda tax ‘to balance budget’, survey finds

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 19-Feb-2010

A majority of New Yorkers support a proposed soda tax, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University – reversing the response from a similar survey conducted two weeks earlier.

New York Governor David Paterson resurrected the idea of a penny-per-ounce tax on sugared beverages last month, a year after the city had rejected a similar proposal. But this time around the idea has added financial impetus as the city has a $7.4bn budget gap between revenues and spending to close – and this latest poll suggests that could make all the difference.

In a February 4 poll of New York City voters, 50 percent of respondents opposed a tax referred to as an ‘obesity tax’ or ‘fat tax’ without mentioning budget implications, and 47 percent were in favor.

But in a poll of 1,195 voters carried out from February 11-15, more than three-quarters (76 percent) supported a tax on sugary soft drinks ‘to balance the city budget’, with 22 percent against.

The university’s poll also showed support from Republicans, with 60 percent backing a tax when linked to narrowing the budget deficit, and 36 percent opposed.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also declared his support for Paterson’s proposal, calling it a “far-sighted” move that will help stem the obesity problem and provide much needed revenue.

Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute Maurice Carroll said: "There's been some grumbling about ‘nanny government’ by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but voters are eating it up. Only a few think Mayor Mike is meddling. It's important, we agree overwhelmingly.”

The survey found that 79 percent of respondents think that government involvement in such food issues is useful rather than meddling.

However, the American Beverage Association has been a vocal opponent to the idea of a soda tax.

The association has said that “taxing soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages to reduce obesity is simply the wrong public policy for such a complex problem” and has urged policymakers to focus on nutrition education that emphasizes the importance of balancing overall calorie intake with calories burned through physical activity.

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