The Evaluation of Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax: August 2021

Impact of the Tax on Norms and Attitudes: The Evaluation of Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax

August 2021

The university of Washington conducted a public opinion survey after the implementation of Seattle’s 1.75 cent per ounce tax on sweetened beverages to determine the attitudes and perceptions about the tax itself among Seattle residents.

Key findings include:

  • 76% of people in Seattle believe that the burden of the tax falls heavier on working class communities and communities of color.

  • Support for the tax has fallen over time.  Support for the tax declined from 60.4% in Oct.-Dec. 2017, just before the tax was imposed in January 2018, to 57.8% in Sept.-Nov. 2019.

  • There was a statistically significant increase of 11 percentage points of people surveyed who said they would cross-border shop because of the tax.

  • The amount of those surveyed who believed the beverage tax would harm small businesses jumped 17 percentage points.

  • Advocates of the tax sold it as a means to reduce consumption; however, this survey proves there is little to no evidence that the tax reduces consumption.  Specifically:

  • Only 21% of residents reported that they consumed less sugar sweetened beverages because of the tax.

  • As part of the survey, researchers compared areas outside of Seattle (“Comparison Areas”) which saw a greater decrease in sugary drink consumption then Seattle which had the tax.