Why conduct public opinion surveys?

Conducting public opinion surveys is an important part of an overall community assessment and can help your community determine its point-of-sale tobacco control strategy. Public opinion surveys can be used to:
  • Measure initial support for tobacco control strategies.
  • Determine policies that require education and outreach campaigns to build support (i.e., those with lower levels of public support).
  • Assess community norms and assumptions to inform media campaigns and determine policy receptivity in the community [1]
  • Help determine how to frame your messaging when educating the community and advocating for the policy.
  • Evaluate effectiveness of education and outreach campaigns with follow-up data
  • Inform policy priorities. In general, policies with greater support are more likely to pass.
  • Provide data to advocate for policy change.
  • Evaluate the impact of policies.

How to conduct public opinion surveys

You can craft a public opinion survey specific to point-of-sale issues or you may be able to incorporate measures into existing surveys. When developing a public opinion survey, consider requesting the following information:

Examples of public opinion survey results

The following graph demonstrates data from the 2012 New York City Tobacco Behavior and Public Opinion Survey. In 2013, New York City pursued historic point-of-sale legislation that included some of these policies that had demonstrated high levels of public support—raising the minimum age to purchase cigarettes and a product display ban. 
Researchers found national broad-based support through a 2013 administration of the Social Climate Survey of Tobacco Control, which demonstrated that over 70% of adults support raising the minimum legal sale age of tobacco products to 21, including the majority of smokers and individuals ages 18-21, who would be most impacted by the law. 
NYC Support for POS Tobacco Control Policies

Use of public opinion survey results

To learn more about how communities have used public opinion surveys, review the following resources: