New York voters unconvinced on Bloomberg health measures

NEW YORK Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:07am EDT

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the ''The Economics and Politics of Immigration'' Forum in Boston, Massachusetts August 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the ''The Economics and Politics of Immigration'' Forum in Boston, Massachusetts August 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two major public health initiatives pushed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a ban on the sale of large sugary drinks and a plan to encourage breast-feeding, are opposed by a majority of city voters, a Quinnipiac poll said on Thursday.

A proposal before the city Board of Health would limit servings of sugary drinks to 16 ounces (473 ml) at most restaurants, theaters, delis, vending carts and stadium concessions. It is the first of its kind in the nation and has been vigorously opposed by the soda industry.

A separate initiative would encourage breast-feeding by making baby formula less available to new mothers.

Since taking office a decade ago, Bloomberg has championed a series of health initiatives that prompted critics to deride him as a "nanny" executive. Several proposals were met with fierce opposition initially -- notably a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars -- but then became models for other U.S. cities.

Voters oppose Bloomberg's sugary soft drink proposal by a margin of 54 percent to 42 percent.

They oppose the breastfeeding initiative by an even greater margin, with 56 percent of voters opposed and 24 percent in favor. Six of 10 women oppose the initiative.

Still, half of voters say they approve of Bloomberg's record on public health, while 38 percent do not.

"Overall, New Yorkers give Hizzoner good grades on public-health as they reject the criticism that it's ‘nanny government,'" said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

CRIME-FIGHTING TACTIC

The poll also found continuing opposition to the city's controversial "stop and frisk" anti-crime tactic, which critics have called racial profiling.

Half of New York City voters disapprove of the program, while 45 percent approve of it, little changed from June when 51 percent opposed the program and 43 percent backed it. Half of voters also say that decreasing the number of stops would not result in an increase in gun violence.

The New York Civil Liberties Union and other groups have blasted the practice, saying that black and Latino New Yorkers are stopped with alarming frequency, even though in the great majority of cases they are found to have done nothing wrong.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Department officials have vigorously defended the stop-and-frisk tactic, arguing it has been crucial in taking guns off the streets and achieving a historic drop in crime rates. The police deny that race or quotas motivate stops and say they are stopping anyone considered suspicious.

The poll did include one bit of encouraging news for Bloomberg. Nearly three-fourths of city voters say a city-wide bike rental program is a good idea. The program was slated to begin in July but has been plagued by repeated delays.

The survey of 1,298 New York City voters was conducted from August 8 to 12 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

(Reporting By Edith Honan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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