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Revenue question crucial to NY soda tax acceptance

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 15-Apr-2010

A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that consumers would be more likely to support a tax on sugary beverages if the proceeds were linked to paying for health care reforms.

However, if the tax is framed as a ‘fat tax’ or ‘obesity tax’ – that is, as a way to change consumer behavior – most respondents oppose the tax, 66 percent to 31, the survey found. Voters were split 48-49 percent when asked if they "support or oppose a tax on sugary soft drinks if the money was used to fund health care."

The poll found that 89 percent of New York State voters consider childhood and teen obesity to be a ‘very serious’ or ‘somewhat serious’ problem, but only four percent of parents said they have a child who is seriously overweight. In addition, 54 percent of respondents said they see government efforts to tackle the problem as “meddling”. Forty-one percent said that government should act.

Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute Maurice Carroll said: "Sure, childhood obesity is a serious problem, New Yorkers agree. But most think a state campaign against it is government meddling."

New York Governor David Paterson resurrected the idea of a penny-per-ounce tax on sugared beverages in January, a year after the city had rejected a similar proposal. It was thought that the financial impetus provided by a $7.4bn budget gap between revenues and spending could have made all the difference. But both the New York State Assembly and Senate have rejected a proposed tax on sugary soft drinks in their budget resolutions, although a decision will only be finalized after negotiations with Governor Paterson.

An earlier poll from the same university in February found that 76 percent of voters supported a tax on sugary drinks in order ‘to balance the city’s budget’, with 22 percent against.

For this latest survey, Quinnipiac researchers polled 1,381 New York State registered voters from April 6-11.

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