This poll was taken as part of CBS News' "Where America Stands" series, an in-depth look at where the country stands today on key topics and an outlook for the future decade.
The poll results reveal that the vast majority of Americans believe that obesity can be controlled. They do not feel, however, that the government should be imposing a tax on the foods most likely to make them obese. Sixty percent say they oppose such a tax, while 38 percent say it's a good idea.
"People's attitude is that they don't necessarily want Big Brother telling them what to eat or drink, and I understand that," he said in an interview last year. "It is true, though, that if you wanted to make a big impact on people's health in this country, reducing things like soda consumption would be helpful."
Seventy-two percent of Americans surveyed in the new CBS News poll say that a tax on junk food would not help people lose weight. Just 26 percent say it would help them do so.
Nearly nine in ten Americans say obesity can be controlled, not through taxation but through diet and exercise. Just seven percent say people cannot control their level of obesity.
Fifty-seven percent say obesity is a "very serious" public health problem, and another 38 percent call it a somewhat serious problem. Just five percent say it is not serious.
And a majority of Americans – 55 percent – say they themselves would like to lose weight. That includes 62 percent of women and 47 percent of men.
Forty percent of Americans are happy with their current weight, while a small number – five percent – would like to gain weight. Eight percent of men and just two percent of women say they want to gain weight.
Since at least 1990, according to Gallup polling, a majority of Americans have wanted to lose weight. But in the 1950s, the majority of Americans were happy with their weight, and only about one in three wanted to lose weight.
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,048 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone December 17-22, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.