Poll: Voters split on fluoridation, but almost all want a vote on it

Poll: Voters split on fluoridation, but almost all want a vote on it
A protestor is removed from city hall during a City Council vote on whether to add fluoride to city water in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The City Council approved a plan Wednesday to add fluoride to Portland's water, meaning Oregon's biggest city is no longer the largest holdout in the U.S.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

PORTLAND, Ore. - A new Survey USA poll commissioned by KATU News about putting fluoride in Portland's water supply revealed two clear trends: voters are pretty much evenly split on the issue and almost everyone wants to vote on it.

The Portland City Council voted Sept. 12 and unanimously approved fluoridating the water supply starting in March of 2014. That same day opponents filed for a citizen referendum to begin the process of bringing the matter to a public vote.

The earliest a public vote on the issue could take place is May of 2014, two months after fluoridation is scheduled to begin - unless a special election is called.

In the poll, those opposed to adding fluoride just barely topped those in favor 45 to 43 percent, with 12 percent still undecided. That result is well within the poll' s 4.1 percent margin of error.

However, when asked if voters or the Portland City Council should decide the issue, it was no contest: 79 percent wanted a public vote with only 18 percent backing city commissioners making the call. Only 3 percent said they were not sure. The margin for error for that question was 3.1 percent.

The survey results came from calls to 588 registered voters in Multnomah County.

The issue of putting fluoride in the Portland water supply has been one of the most divisive in many years, marked by raucous city council meetings attended by hundreds of people on both sides of the issue.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams, who backs adding fluoride, said "science is on the side of fluoridation." 

Critics maintain that fluoridated water is unneeded, unwanted and may pose a health hazard.

Supporters claim research shows it's safe and Portland is the last big city in the nation to hold out on fluoridation which they say can help prevent tooth decay in children.

Commissioner Nick Fish, who co-sponsored the plan, said he couldn't remember an issue that brought out so much passion on both sides.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman issued a statement explaining his yes vote.

Historically, voters in Portland twice rejected fluoridation before approving it in 1978. But that plan was overturned before any fluoride was ever added to the water.

Fluoridation will be the topic this Sunday on KATU TV's Your Voice, Your Vote program. Tune in at 9 a.m. on KATU TV and KATU.com.