WASHINGTON, D.C. – An Adweek/Harris Poll conducted recently by Harris Interactive shows that 56 percent of Americans are opposed to a tax on soft drinks, with less than a third supporting the idea. This poll is the latest in a national trend of independent public opinion research that reinforces Americans are tired of new taxes and extremely uncomfortable with the government using taxes to dictate what they eat or drink.
In March, a national poll released by Rasmussen Reports also found that a majority of Americans oppose a tax on soft drinks, strongly believing that lawmakers are far more interested in raising money for more government than in using tax revenue for public health.
"Americans continue to make clear their opposition to a soda tax, despite a concerted effort by activists and some lawmakers to pursue the idea," said Kevin Keane, senior vice president of public affairs, for the American Beverage Association. "Importantly, Americans simply aren't buying the façade that taxes on soda will work to reduce obesity, or that health goals are the true intentions for the tax. They see the tax for what it is – a money grab to pay for more government. It's time for lawmakers to bury this ill-conceived tax once and for all."
The Adweek/Harris Poll found that only a meager 31 percent of respondents support the tax. This minimal support is consistent with results from other national polls, like the Rasmussen poll. Respondents across the board have clearly stated in no uncertain terms that they do not support a tax on soft drinks that will inevitably go to paying for more government.
The public sentiment in the Adweek/Harris Poll and Rasmussen Reports findings is being reflected by real world actions where discriminatory soft drink taxes are being rejected. Last year, Congress chose not to pursue a soda tax to pay for health care reform. In 2008, the state government in Maine imposed a tax on soft drinks and other beverages to pay for the state-run health care program. In a November ballot initiative, angry Maine voters rejected the tax by a two-to-one margin. And in New York, the governor publicly scrapped his idea to levy a major tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in 2009 after New Yorkers strongly revolted. And after proposing it again this year, the governor is feeling the heat once again from constituents fed up with taxes and the nanny state. Several other states and cities have also dismissed proposals for a discriminatory excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages this year as well.
"This poll further emphasizes that people don't want one more penny in taxes, particularly on their groceries," Keane said. "In this troubled economy, it's the wrong time to raise taxes on hard-working families – especially a tax that won't work and is just a money grab."
Taxes like these are highly regressive, hurting the most those who can least afford it. As lawmakers look for ways to address public health issues like obesity, they should focus on meaningful and lasting solutions instead of deceptively placing the burden of budget shortfalls and revenue gaps on the backs of their hard-working constituents.