PRINCETON, NJ -- When it comes to smokers lighting up in public, Americans are most accepting of smoking in bars and least accepting of it in restaurants. Fifty-nine percent this year say smoking should be banned in restaurants, up from 54% in 2007.
While Americans generally believe smoking and eating out don't mix, they do favor accommodating smokers in hotels/motels and the workplace via designated smoking areas. Americans are particularly tolerant of smoking in bars, as a substantial minority, 23%, say there should be no restrictions in bars -- in addition to the 43% favoring designated smoking areas.
Tide of Opinion Moving Against Smokers
Opposition to smoking in restaurants, hotels/motels, and the workplace has hardened significantly since Gallup first asked Americans about it in 1987. The percentage in favor of banning smoking in restaurants and hotels/motels has more than tripled, and has more than doubled for the workplace.
"Bars" was added to the list in 2003. Since then, the percentage who favor banning smoking in bars has grown at a rate similar to that seen for restaurants.
From 1987 to today, the percentage of regular cigarette smokers among the U.S. adult population as measured by Gallup has declined from 30% to 22%, explaining some of the decline in support for public smoking. Gallup has consistently found nonsmokers much more likely than smokers to favor bans in restaurants and other locations, including in the current poll.
Additionally, the percentage who believe secondhand smoke poses a significant health risk for nonsmokers has increased to 55% today, up from 36% in Gallup's first measure of this in 1994. However, the major shift in attitudes about secondhand smoke occurred in the second half of the 1990s. Thus, it is not clear that the increased opposition to public smoking more recently is related to heightened concern about the health risks to nonsmokers.
Currently, half of U.S. states have broad bans on smoking in enclosed public places, including workplaces, restaurants, and bars. The rest have more limited restrictions, such as requiring designated smoking areas in restaurants and workplaces, or prohibiting smoking only in government buildings and schools. A careful review of these laws could reveal that some states go further in restricting smoking than the American public would prefer, while others don't go nearly far enough.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 8-11, 2010, with a random sample of 1,020 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.