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Elon Poll: Majority of N.C. residents unaware of “sunshine” laws

More than half of North Carolinians are unaware that state laws exist to allow public access to government records, according to the latest Elon University Poll, but nearly all respondents feel democracy is best when it operates openly.

The poll, conducted March 15-19, surveyed 620 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. Respondents were polled during Sunshine Week, an effort by the American Society of Newspaper Editors to educate citizens about open government and access to records.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said they are not familiar with Sunshine Laws – rules for open meetings and access to government records – in North Carolina. Despite the lack of awareness, most citizens see the value of public access to records. Sixty-eight percent said this kind of access is “very important,” while 88 percent feel open records and meetings keep government operations honest.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents rejected the notion that closed records and meetings allow government to get things done more effectively. While the majority of citizens advocate for government transparency, 77 percent feel exceptions should be made if such action will aid the war on terrorism.

More than half of respondents (52 percent) have attempted to gain access to public documents in the past. Of these individuals, 83 percent were successful in their efforts.

Read the Sunshine Center's reaction to the poll results.

Colin Donohue,
3/20/2009 4:23 PM