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University of Iowa News Release

March 6, 2003

Local Residents Support 21 Ordinance, Poll Shows

There is widespread support for policies to curb underage drinking in Iowa City, including an ordinance requiring bar patrons to be 21, a recent survey of local residents shows.

In a poll commissioned by the Stepping Up Project, a campus-community coalition, 62 percent of local residents said that they favor requiring patrons to be 21 or older to enter local bars. The telephone poll of 400 randomly-selected Iowa City and Coralville residents was conducted for Stepping Up by Cogent Research of Cambridge, Mass., in November of last year. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percent.

"This survey shows what we have believed all along -- that there is concern in the community about the harmful effects of underage drinking and excessive drinking, and that the people who live here want to take all reasonable steps to reduce those harmful effects," said Carolyn Cavitt, co-director of Stepping Up, which is dedicated to reducing the harmful effects of excessive drinking.

Results of the poll show that 65 percent of Iowa City residents consider underage drinking to be the single most serious problem the community faces. Among the concerns directly tied to excessive alcohol consumption that were identified were sexual and physical assault, vandalism and property damage, disorderly conduct, noise disturbances, and dangerous driving.

"It's no secret that if we want to make a dent in the underage drinking problem, we have to limit the flow of alcohol to minors," said Jim Clayton, Stepping Up's other co-director and downtown business owner. "Limiting minors' access to alcohol and strict enforcement of current laws are proven strategies that will work in Iowa City," he added.

Poll respondents agree. Of those surveyed, the majority believes that access to bars by people under 21 and the leniency of bar owners toward serving minors are two of the major factors contributing to underage student drinking. That's why most residents, the survey showed, support a wide range of policies aimed at reducing alcohol availability, such as strict enforcement of laws prohibiting selling alcohol to people under 21, better enforcement of laws related to using fake identification, and requiring patrons to be over 21 to enter bars.

A recent study by the College Alcohol Study at the Harvard School of Public Health supports the rationale for instituting such policies. The study concluded that an environment with easy and cheap access to alcohol is one of the greatest influences on high-risk drinking by primarily underage college freshmen.

The Stepping Up Project is funded through a program called, "A Matter of Degree: The National Effort to Reduce High-Risk Drinking Among College Students," an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aimed at reducing high-risk drinking by college students and the related negative consequences.

STORY SOURCE: University Relations, 101 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1000.

CONTACT: Carolyn Cavitt, 319-335-1349.