A recent survey from Harris Interactive shows most Americans favor laws that protect the public health and safety, but at the same time worry about our becoming a "nanny state."

Eighty-one percent of respondents agreed and 33% strongly agreed that public safety laws: for example, those addressing safe driving or childhood vaccination: are important to keeping America safe. More than three-quarters also agree that such initiatives do actually work. On the other hand, almost two-thirds (61%) are concerned that these same laws might get too restrictive, impeding individual freedoms.

The survey quizzed respondents on 14 different policies, laws and programs. Some key findings:

  • 91% support a ban on texting while driving, while 74% strongly support this initiative
  • 70 % support, 43% strongly support banning talking on cell phones while driving
  • 78% support, 34% strongly support requiring eating establishments to reveal nutritional information on menus
  • 86 % support, 55% strongly support requiring the regular round of childhood vaccinations (mumps, measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis, and polio)
  • 80% support, 58% support banning smoking in restaurants, and public places
  • 76 % oppose, 43% strongly oppose employers citing obesity as a reason not to hire
  • 65% oppose, 34% strongly oppose employers not hiring smokers
  • 62 % against, 37% strongly against the taxing of sugar-sweetened soft drinks

Even as they supported many individual initiatives aimed at protecting the public good, 81% of respondents nevertheless agreed that individuals "should take responsibility for their own actions and be free to make their own decisions, even if they suffer as a result." Some respondents stressed that a balance must be struck between maintaining both public health and individual freedoms.

The survey included online responses from 2,200 adults over the age of 18.