Who are the 71 percent?

American Heart Association releases poll showing a vast majority of Pennsylvanians agree government closest to the people works best

Harrisburg, Pa., March 20, 2018 — It may have seemed impossible, but the American Heart Association discovered something that 71 percent of Pennsylvanians agree on – Republicans and Democrats. The results of a recent public opinion poll show that 71 percent of Pennsylvanians agree with our Founding Fathers that government closest to the people governs best and a state law that takes away the ability of local governments to solve their own problems is a bad idea.

hero_image_alt_text===photo of High and Main Streets signs
thumbnail_alt_text===photo of High and Main Streets signs

“There is an enormous gap between what voters across the political spectrum want to decide locally and what the Pennsylvania legislature has been telling cities and towns that they cannot do,” said Paul Mather, MD, president of the American Heart Association’s Great Rivers Affiliate.

Support for local control and innovation proves to be widely bipartisan and crosses all regions of the state. Support is highest, 77 percent, among independent or “swing” voters and in the central “T” of Pennsylvania, while 73 percent of self-identified Republicans and 65 percent of self-identified Democrats support local control. A majority of poll respondents also report opposing efforts by state politicians to take away the rights of local communities to solve their own problems and being more likely to vote for a candidate who supports local control. The statewide poll of 800 likely voters was commissioned by the American Heart Association and conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research.

“This practice of state ‘preemption’ has killed local action around smoke-free workplaces, minimum wage, fracking, paid sick days, gun safety, and if the American Beverage Association has its way, local soda taxes will be added to the list of things cities and towns no longer have the right to consider,” said Karen Showalter, a spokesperson for MomsRising.

“What works for people in a big city doesn’t always work for people in a small town. That’s why local governments exist – to build on state health, safety and workplace standards so local laws reflect the unique views, values and needs of their residents. When state legislators interfere in local lawmaking, they threaten local democracy and silence the voice of the people,” explained Kim Haddow, director of the Local Solutions Support Center (LSSC), a national hub created to expose and curb the misuse of preemption.

The polling results from Pennsylvania were striking in that “Voters agree that local government should have the ability to make these decisions to best serve their constituents and improve their communities,” said Mather.

Yet, in recent years, a rash of these so-called preemptive laws have flared up as certain industries learned that they cannot easily control local democracy, so they take their fight to Harrisburg where their money and influence have more power. “Preemption is being misused by corporate lobbyists who protect their profits by pressuring the legislature to pass laws that prevent local communities from protecting and improving the health and welfare of their own residents.  Who wins when the states limit the powers of local governments? The industries that want to stop local regulation of tobacco, oil and gas, casinos, firearms, and now maybe the beverage industry. Who loses? The communities and people who have lost their power to control what those industries do in their neighborhoods,” said Haddow.

“This poll is conclusive proof that the voters of Pennsylvania – Democrats and Republicans, from the north, south, east, and west –object to having their local democratic process taken away by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We now need to make sure that every member of the legislature knows where 71 percent of Pennsylvanians stand,” said Mather.

Kim Haddow of the LSSC noted: “The American Heart Association’s new polling data makes it crystal clear that the overwhelming majority of Pennsylvania voters - of all stripes - strongly oppose state interference in local democracy and are prepared to reject those lawmakers who vote for preemption laws.”

Mather noted, “We decided to conduct this poll because our mission is to improve heart health and Pennsylvania lawmakers had already passed bad public health law that hurt heart health by forbidding local communities from going smoke-free over a decade ago. We are concerned that they are on the verge of passing another unhealthy law that could limit local policy decisions around sugary beverages.”

Cases of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes are skyrocketing, and sugary drinks are the single largest source of added sugar in our diets. The American Heart Association recommends children have no more than 8 ounces of sugary drinks per week. In the United States, children consume 10 times the recommended amount. After leaders in one Pennsylvania city came together to pass a local sugary beverage tax to combat this health problem and fund community programs, lawmakers in Harrisburg began considering proposals to strike down this policy and prevent other local government bodies from making similar decisions.

“We found that the majority of voters oppose state laws that would prevent local soda taxes, and our poll also revealed undeniable voter opposition to any state interference in local government that crosses issues and ideologies. It was a wake-up call for us, realizing that heart health is just one of many casualties of statewide preemption, and it also gives us a chance to band together with other groups through #71PA,” said Mather. 

The American Heart Association stands with the public in opposing efforts at the state level to prevent local governments from passing policies that improve the health of their communities. For more information about the American Heart Association’s advocacy efforts, visit www.yourethecure.org.   



About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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