No to Nanny State, except while driving

June 21, 2013, 8:06 PM GMT+0

There are clear partisan differences, but Americans as a whole accept invasive yet beneficial regulations only in one domain: on the road

Recently New York's Michael Bloomberg announced plans to introduce mandatory food composting in his city. The plan, which would require residents separate food scraps from other waste or face a fine, follows after other Bloomberg proposals, such as last year's ban on sugary drink containers more than 16 ounces, which while ostensibly for public benefit are decried by many as invasive. New research from YouGov investigates these proposals and others to see what invasions of privacy Americans are willing to endure for the public good.

As the results reveal, Americans as a whole will only strongly suport laws related to behavior on the road--that is, requirements to wear seat belts in cars or helmets while biking. On the other hand, proposals that would affect personal conduct or life at home--whether its disposal of waste, internet searches or raising children--get far less support.

Overall, 76% of American support requiring drivers to wear seat belts and 67% support requring bicyclists to wear helmets. Two other proposals have more supporters that opponents: requiring people to separate recycling at home (with 53% in support) and requiring search engines to filter out pornography (51%).

Only one other proposal come closes to an even amount of support--requiring the use of energy efficient lightbulbs, which was supported by 45% of Americans and opposed by 49%. The other proposals--banning spanking (opposed by 73%), requiring people separate compostable material (opposed by 75%) and limiting the size of sugary drinks (opposed by 66%)--are rejected by wide margins.

While on some issues there is wide-ranging support or opposition, with majorities of Republicans and Democrats in agreement, partisan differences figured strongly in the results. For every single issue, Democrats were more likely to support it and Republicans were more likely to reject it.

The largest margin between Republicans and Democrats comes on two proposals intended to protect the environment--requiring the use of energy efficient lightbulbs and requiring the separation of recyclable waste. While requiring the use of energy efficient lightbulbs is supported by 66% of Democrats, it is opposed by 70% of Republicans and separating recycling is supported by 68% of Democrats and opposed by 67% of Republicans.

On the other hand the proposal on which Republicans and Democrats are most similar is requiring internet search engines to automatically filter pornography, which is mildly by both Republicans and Democrats.

While Bloomberg's proposal to require separation of compostable waste is not popularly nationally, as our poll shows, the city plans a gradually phase-in, with it becoming mandatory by 2016. Although Bloomberg leaves office next year, two leading candidates in the election--Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio--have announced their support for it.