WASHINGTON, DC: Americans are almost as divided in their perceptions of food and what constitutes healthy eating as they are on politics, although the food splits do not follow party lines.

A new Pew Research Center survey of 1,480 US adults showed that just over half (54%) believed that people today pay more attention to healthy eating than they did 20 years ago, while the same proportion said eating habits are less healthy today than in 1996.

A smaller share said people pay less attention (26%) or about the same amount of attention (19%) to eating healthy today.

Pew suggested that the new food divides were less about politics and more about individual concerns and philosophies about the relationship between food and well-being, particularly with respect to GM and organics goods.

"The divides over food do not fall along familiar political fault lines," it said. A similar percentage of Republicans (39%) and Democrats (40%) felt that GM foods were worse for people's health. They also had a broadly similar outlook on the positive health benefits of organic foods (50% Republicans, 60% Democrats).

People who cared a great deal about the issue of GM foods were particularly likely to view American eating habits as having deteriorated over the past two decades (67% vs 53% among those not at all or not too concerned about the GM foods issue).

And people focused on healthy and nutritious eating were more inclined to say the types of food people eat is a bigger problem in the US today than the overall amount (34% vs 21% among those not at all or not too focused on healthy and nutritious eating).

The minority of respondents who cared deeply about the issue of GM foods (16%) was also much more likely than others to consider GM foods worse for health (75% vs. 17% of those with no or not too much concern about GM foods).

Similarly, the 18% of Americans particularly focused on healthy and nutritious eating were especially likely to consider organic produce healthier than conventionally grown produce.

And the two groups do not overlap to any great extent, since just 6% of adults both cared a great deal about GM food issues and were personally focused on healthy and nutritious eating.

"The people in both of these groups eat and shop differently than other Americans," said Pew.

Data sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff