WASHINGTON, DC -- More Americans now regard obesity as a more serious public health issue than they do cigarette smoking, according to a new Gallup poll.
Of those surveyed in the nationwide poll, 81% consider obesity to be an "extremely" or "very" serious problem, up from 69% who said the same in 2005, which was the last time Gallup asked the question.
Nearly four in 10 Americans now say obesity is an extremely serious problem to society, more than the 30% who say the same about cigarettes and 18% about alcohol. The percentage who say obesity is an extremely serious problem is also up from 27% in 2005.
Americans polled by Gallup were equally divided in their view that it is "extremely" or "very" important to have federal government programs that address the health risks associated with obesity (57%) and smoking (55%), despite their higher level of concern about obesity. Slightly fewer said programs addressing excessive alcohol consumption are extremely or very important (48%).
Obesity concerns cross party lines, with eight in 10 Republicans, Democrats and independents agreeing that obesity is an extremely or very serious problem to society. However, while the vast majority of Democrats say they think it is extremely or very important to have federal government programs to address obesity, fewer than three in 10 Republicans say the same.
Gallup attributed rising obesity rates and Americans' awareness of the trend as contributing to their growing concerns about the problems it is causing society. In 2010, 35.7% of U.S. adults were obese, up from 32.7% in 2005, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The research firm also observed that First lady Michelle Obama's high-profile nationwide anti-childhood obesity campaign launched in 2010 may have also impacted Americans' perceptions of the severity of the issue.
The poll's results were based on telephone interviews conducted this month with a random sample of 1,014 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.