Elon Poll: N.C. residents support state constitutional amendment for open meetings

POLL METHODOLOGY

DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES

Four out of five respondents in the latest Elon University Poll would support an amendment to the state constitution that would make all public business of any government body in North Carolina open and available to the public.

Eighty percent of respondents agree that transparency is key to fighting government corruption, and 93 percent say that public hearings are essential for good government.

Pollsters also found that 75 percent of North Carolinians believe governments naturally like to keep secrets from citizens.

The poll, conducted Feb. 20-24, 2011, surveyed 467 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones. The Elon University Poll does not restrict respondents by voter eligibility or likelihood of voting.

With the week of March 13, 2011, designated as Sunshine Week in North Carolina, the Elon University Poll is sharing data on open records and public meetings collected in February during the first poll of the spring semester.

Notable findings include the following (data is rounded and may not total 100 percent):

As to an amendment to the North Carolina constitution that makes all public business of any government body in North Carolina open and available to the public:
Support/Strongly Support: 81 percent
Oppose/Strongly Oppose: 16 percent
Don’t know: 4 percent

Belief that citizen access to public documents, records, information, and meetings:
Influences government operations: 73 percent (down from 79 percent from March 2010)
Does not influence government operations: 23 percent (up 8 percent from March 2010)

When thinking about the accessibility of your state and local governments, would you say they are:
Always Accessible & Available: 7 percent
Somewhat Accessible & Available: 77 percent
Not at All Accessible & Available: 8 percent

Have you ever tried to get any public documents, records and information?
Yes: 57 percent
No: 42 percent

Were you generally successful in getting the documents, records, or information that you tried to?
Yes: 84 percent
No: 15 percent

Top five types of public records North Carolinians have ever attempted to obtain (Note: This is a subsample from those who had ever tried to “get any public documents, records and information” with N=268, +/- 6.1%)
Police reports on crimes committed in your community: 72 percent
Property tax records, including the value of a person’s home and how much was paid in property taxes: 69 percent
Names and addresses of registered sex offenders: 61 percent
Records detailing someone’s criminal past: 57 percent
Annual salaries of public employees: 49 percent

Top three types of information North Carolinians should have access to (Note: This is a subsample from those who answer “no,” “don’t know” or “refused” to the question of whether they ever tried to “get any public documents, records and information” with N=199, +/- 7.1%):
Police reports of crimes committed in your community: 94 percent
Names and addresses of registered sex offenders: 94 percent
Government records that identify the type, amount, and location of hazardous chemicals: 91 percent

Top three types of information North Carolinians should NOT have access to (Note: This is a subsample from those who answer “no,” “don’t know” or “refused” to the question of whether they ever tried to “get any public documents, records and information” with N=199, +/- 7.1%):
Divorce court files, which may include family assets and allegations between spouses: 78 percent
Driver’s license records, which include a person’s name, address, height, and weight: 71 percent
Government employees work emails: 45 percent