Strategic messaging is used to emphasize certain aspects of issues in policy debates, shaping public views and policy-making processes. This paper explores the use of strategic messaging by proponents of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxation to influence public opinion, emphasizing the experiences in El Monte and Richmond, Calif., where SSB tax proposals were voted on in 2012. Researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with 18 stakeholders in California and across the country about the use and perceived effectiveness of messages supporting and opposing SSB taxation. The pro-tax messages most frequently mentioned by respondents were investing tax revenue into health-related programs and linking SSB consumption to health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes. The most frequently mentioned anti-tax messages addressed negative economic effects on businesses and government restriction of personal choices. Factors contributing to perceived messaging effectiveness included clearly defining “sugar-sweetened beverage” and earmarking funds for obesity prevention, incorporating cultural sensitivity into messaging, and providing education about the health effects of SSB consumption.
Strategic Messaging to Promote Taxation of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: Lessons from Recent Political Campaigns
This study examines the effect of inoculation as a strategy in competitive framing in the context of public opinion about taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB). Inoculation is a theory of resistance to persuasion which suggests that by exposing an individual to a weakened form of an oppositional message, individuals can … More
Strategies to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are a key component of public health promotion and obesity prevention, yet the introduction of many of these policies has been met with political controversy. This paper assesses the levels and determinants of U.S. public support for policies to reduce consumption of … More
This article examines how the news media frames the public debates about sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes. Researchers assessed how frequently pro- and anti-tax arguments appeared in national news media and in news outlets serving jurisdictions where SSB taxes were proposed and found that news stories focused on the SSB tax … More
This paper assessed public opinion about arguments commonly used in debates over taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and found greater public agreement with anti- than pro-tax arguments. A majority of respondents agreed with anti-SSB tax arguments that such taxes are: arbitrary because they do not affect consumption of other unhealthy … More
Evidence indicates that sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes may reduce rates of childhood obesity, particularly among high-risk populations. However, state and local efforts to enact SSB taxes have been unsuccessful, and public opinion research indicates limited support for these policies. Enactment of SSB taxes will be unlikely without public support, yet … More