The nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Oct. 30 to Nov. 6 among 996 U.S. adults, found 44 percent in favor of prohibiting restaurants from using trans fats in foods and 4 percent don't know.
Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, are no longer "generally recognized as safe." Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, said the new rules requiring companies to prove scientifically trans fats are safe to eat could prevent 20,000 U.S. heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.
Introduced about 30 years ago, artificial trans fats are created when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas and made into a solid. It's used for frying and baking, and in products such as margarine as a cheaper fat than butter.
Although the survey was conducted before the FDA announcement, a number of U.S. cities have put trans fat restrictions in place.
The survey question was part of a Pew Research Center survey on how Americans view public health and obesity scheduled to be released early next week.
Opposition to government bans of trans fats in restaurants was highest among Republicans, particularly those who identify with the Tea Party, while Democrats were largely divided on the question: 51 percent of Democrats favor and 45 percent opposed prohibiting trans fats in restaurants.
There was a substantial difference of opinion between women and men: Half of women favored banning trans fats in restaurants compared with 37 percent of men, but there were no significant differences between younger and older Americans, whites and non-whites, or college grads and those without a college education.