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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are biased against smokers and the obese, but the United States saves its highest disrespect for those who light up, according to a Gallup poll published on Friday.
One in four Americans report having less respect for a person who smokes, compared to 12 percent of Americans who say they have less respect for those who are overweight, the July poll said.
Anti-smoker bias is higher today than it was two decades ago, having grown to 25 percent in 2011 from some 17 percent in 1991. The smoking population has also contracted, falling from 27 percent in 1991 to 22 percent today.
Naturally, the Gallup poll reports, nonsmokers are the primary source of bias against smokers, although 5 percent of smokers share the view that they deserve less respect.
Older Americans with a college degree and high income are among the least likely to smoke and the most likely to say they have less respect for those who do.
Similarly, high-income, college-educated Americans were particularly likely to have less respect for people who were overweight, according to Gallup.
By contrast, more than four in five adults indicated their respect for a person was not influenced by an individual's weight, regardless of their own.
The overall percentage of those saying they have less respect for overweight people - 12 percent - was down slightly from 16 percent in 2003.
For this statistic, the poll may have hit too close to home. More than half of the respondents in Gallup's poll identified themselves as overweight.
The results of the poll were based on telephone interviews conducted July 7-10 with a random sample of 1,016 adults. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
"With one in four Americans admitting to having less respect for smokers, smokers in the U.S. face not only serious health risks and higher insurance rates, but a significant social handicap," Gallup concluded.
"Overweight people may also feel the sting of social criticism, but it appears to be less routine than for smokers."
Editing by Cynthia Johnston