Poll: Residents not swallowing ads tying pop tax to health concerns

SHARE Poll: Residents not swallowing ads tying pop tax to health concerns

A sign sponsored by opponents of the new Cook County tax on sweetened beverages is posted in the soda aisle of Tischler Finer Foods in Brookfield. | Sara Burnett/Associated Press

Cook County residents aren’t buying the argument that health concerns are behind the pop tax — but no matter the motivation, most want the tax repealed, a new poll finds.

A We Ask America poll taken Thursday and Friday targeted a flurry of advertisements that link the tax to health concerns. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent $5 million on ads supporting the Cook County sweetened beverage tax — citing the health benefits of fewer pop sales.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners will meet on Wednesday, when an anti-tax proposal is expected to be heard. Commissioners who voted against the tax have introduced a measure to repeal it, although Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — who has taken much of the heat for the tax — has said she expects it to stand.

In one Bloomberg TV ad, Dr. Javette Orgain, a doctor and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago says soda companies “are targeting our children.”

“It makes me angry, and it should make you angry too,” Orgain says in the ad. “The soda tax will mean healthier kids, healthier families, healthier communities. If we don’t protect the kids, who will?”

The latest poll sought to determine whether the health ads were effective. Of 1,092 registered voters polled, more than 83 percent said they’d seen the health-related ads. When asked whether health motivated commissioners to vote for the tax, 87.5 percent said they believed commissioners voted to support the tax for “other reasons.”

The survey also asked whether respondents wanted the tax repealed “no matter what the reason” — finding 84.8 percent in support of a repeal. More than 83 percent of those polled were Chicago voters in support of a repeal, with more than 86 percent of those polled in suburban Cook County also wanting a repeal.

The tax takes aim at sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drinks. We Ask America is a subsidiary of the Illinois Manufacturers Association — and the IMA is an ally of the tax’s main opponent, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

The poll was taken using both recorded and live calls to cell phone and landlines. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.06 percent.

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