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Legislating for weight-based equality: national trends in public support for laws to prohibit weight discrimination


The prevalence of weight discrimination in the United States has led to increasing calls for legal measures to address weight-based inequities on a broader scale. This study examined public support in 2014 and 2015 for three proposed laws prohibiting weight discrimination, and compared findings with public attitudes towards the same laws from 2011 to 2013. An online survey was completed by a diverse national sample of US adults (N=2411) in June–July of 2014 and 2015 to assess their support for anti-discrimination legislation. Public support increased for the anti-discrimination laws from 2014 to 2015, and at least 71% of participants expressed support for each of the laws in both years. Compared with public support documented in 2011–2013, there was a significant increase in support in 2014–2015 for legislation to extend disability protections to individuals with obesity and for laws that would include body weight in existing state civil rights statutes. Consistently, high levels of support (78%) were documented across this 5-year period for laws to address weight-based discrimination in employment. As public approval is a powerful catalyst motivating political will needed to make policy changes, these findings provide important insights and implications for advancing policy-level discourse about remedies for weight discrimination.

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This research was funded by a donation from the Rudd Foundation and a grant by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Correspondence to R M Puhl.

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Puhl, R., Suh, Y. & Li, X. Legislating for weight-based equality: national trends in public support for laws to prohibit weight discrimination. Int J Obes 40, 1320–1324 (2016).

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