The new poll suggests women, who have major input on what a family eats, recognize those societal and community difficulties more than men do.
More than half of women say the high cost of healthy food is a major driver of obesity, compared with just 37 percent of men. Women also are more likely than men to blame cheap fast food and to say that the food industry should bear a lot of responsibility for helping to find solutions.
Patricia Wilson, 53, of rural Speedwell, Tenn., says she must drive 45 minutes to reach a grocery store — passing numerous burger and pizza joints, with more arriving every year.
"They shouldn't be letting all these fast-food places go up," said Wilson, who nags her children and grandchildren to eat at home and watch their calories. She recalls how her own overweight grandmother lost both her legs and then her life to diabetes.
More than 80 percent of people in the AP-NORC poll said they had easy access to supermarkets, but just as many could easily get fast food. Another 68 percent said it was easy for kids to purchase junk food on their way to school, potentially foiling diet-conscious caregivers like Wilson, who doesn't allow her grandchildren to eat unhealthy snacks at home.
"If they say they're hungry, they get regular food," she said.
Food is only part of the obesity equation; physical activity is key too. About 7 in 10 people said it was easy to find sidewalks or paths for jogging, walking or bike-riding. But 63 percent found it difficult to run errands or get around without a car, reinforcing a sedentary lifestyle.
James Gambrell, 27, of Springfield, Ore., said he pays particular attention to diet and exercise because obesity runs in his family. He makes a point of walking to stores and running errands on foot two to three times a week.
But Gambrell, a fast-food cashier, said he eats out at least once a day because of the convenience and has changed his order at restaurants that already have begun posting calorie counts. He's all for the government pushing those kinds of solutions.
"I feel that it's a part of the government's responsibility to care for its citizens and as such should attempt to set regulations for restaurants that are potentially harmful to its citizens," he said.
On the other side is Pamela Dupuis, 60, of Aurora, Colo., who said she has struggled with weight and has been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. She doesn't want the government involved in things like calorie-counting.
"They should stay out of our lives," she said.
The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted Nov. 21 through Dec. 14. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,011 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
Associated Press writer Stacy A. Anderson and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.