Public Opinion Surveys
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 
- 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:
- Demographics (e.g., sex, age, race/ethnicity)
- Smoking status
- Support for specific tobacco control policies, such as:
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.
- ANSR MN’s 2015 Flavored Tobacco Survey
- ANSR MN’s 2015 poll of Saint Paul residents on their support for a proposed ordinance restricting flavored tobacco products to adult-only tobacco shops.
- Southern Tier Tobacco Awareness Coalition’s 2017 Community Tobacco Assessment Survey
- Florida’s Voter Opinion Polling (2015)
- Survey of California Voters About Policies in the Retail Environment (2011)
- Tobacco Retailer Licensing: Rural California Poll (2008)
Use of public opinion survey results
To learn more about how communities have used public opinion surveys, review the following resources:
- The Center for Public Health Systems Science’s Point-of-Sale Community Support Survey: Baseline Assessment for St. Louis County
- Public opinions on tax and retail-based tobacco control strategies (Farley et al., 2013)
- Understanding Community Norms Surrounding Tobacco Sales (McDaniel & Malone, 2014)