How do consumers feel about banning ads promoting foods high in fat, salt and sugar?

Hoang NguyenData Journalist
June 07, 2021, 3:00 PM UTC

The UK government intends to press ahead with restrictions on the advertising of foods and drinks high in saturated fats, salt and sugar (HFSS) in efforts to reduce childhood obesity. Under the proposed legislation, aimed to take effect at the end of 2022, food and drink brands will be unable to promote HFSS products anywhere online or before 9 pm on TV.

Recent news of the legislation ‘dismayed’ groups of food executives and advertising industry chiefs, leaving several to wonder about the overall effectiveness of an advertising ban on combatting childhood obesity. In order to get a pulse on the public’s perception of the junk food ad ban, YouGov polled 1,200 British adults and 1,200 US adults on the matter.

How do Britons perceive the ad ban on HFSS food and drink products? 
New polling from YouGov shows a slim majority of British adults say they would support a ban on online ads (57%) or TV ads (58%) promoting junk food. In the case of both types of ads, the British public is three times more likely to support an ad ban on HFSS products than oppose it.  
A ban on junk food ads seems well-received regardless of age, with similar levels of support for the restrictions across all age groups. Interestingly, non-parents were no less likely to support a ban than parents - one in two British parents say they support a ban on TV (56%) and online ads (55%). 

Digging deeper reveals a key distinction by social grade. ABC1s are significantly more likely than C2DEs to say they support the ad ban on HFSS products (63% vs. 48% of C2DEs). And while a plurality of C2DEs supports the junk food ad ban, this group is more likely to express indifference on the matter (28% vs. 21% of ABC1s) or oppose the measure outright (22% vs. 15% of ABC1s). 

If a similar junk food ad ban came to the US, what would Americans think about it? 
Consumer sentiment toward banning the marketing of junk foods looks drastically different in the US. Americans seem torn on the issue, with 31% saying they would support a ban on junk food appearing in online ads and a near equal share saying they oppose such a measure (37% and within the poll’s margin of error).  
Generally, there is little variation in the data in terms of age, with the exception of one group. Americans aged 30-44 were more likely than any other age cohort to say they support banning junk food ads online (37%) and on TV (35%). 
Some parents in the US are drawn to the idea of restricting junk food ads found on TV. Parents with young children aged 7 to 17 at home were more likely to express support for banning junk food ads found on TV (38%) than the general population.

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Methodology: YouGov polled 1,200 British adults online on May 19, 2021, between 3:07 pm and 4:03 pm BST. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. The Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, region, and social grade. Results are nationally representative of adults in Great Britain. The margin of error is 4.9% for the overall sample. 

YouGov polled 1,200 US adults online on May 19, 2021 between 10:19am and 12:18pm EST. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, political affiliation, and ethnicity. Results are nationally representative of adults in the United States. The margin of error is 4.2% for the overall sample. Learn more about YouGov Direct.