March 19, 2010

Elon Poll: North Carolinians favor healthcare reform

With decision time nearing on healthcare legislation in Congress, North Carolinians continue to believe that the nation's healthcare system is in need of reform, according to the latest Elon University Poll. The poll, conducted March 14–17, surveyed 579 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

While about half of residents say they are satisfied with the quality of healthcare in the country, more than three-fourths of North Carolinans believe the current health care system in the United States is in need of reform. Support for reform is unchanged from October 2009, when the Elon Poll asked residents the same question.

Would you say the health care system in the United States is in need of reform?
Is in need of reform: 78 percent
Fine the way it is: 15 percent
Needs something done, just not by the government: 6 percent


Those who favor reform were presented with three choices regarding the direction of reform. Almost half favor more government involvement:
Government isn’t going far enough: 48 percent
Government is going too far: 23 percent
Health insurance is a private sector issue: 17 percent
None of these: 12 percent

North Carolinians are evenly divided on whether there should be a national insurance plan paid for by the federal government that pays most medical and hospital costs for all citizens. When asked whether the federal government would offer a public insurance plan option, more than half (53 percent) of North Carolinians support it, while 37 percent oppose it.

Alcohol Beverage Control System
In responding to a series of questions about North Carolina's ABC system for alcohol management, distribution, and sales in the state, 38 percent of residents believe the ABC system should be changed, but they are conflicted over who should be in control of the system.

Who should control liquor sales:
State government: 34 percent
Private companies: 33 percent
Local governments: 23 percent

Residents were asked who they preferred controlling the entire ABC system – private sector, state government, or local governments:
39 percent prefer state government
26 percent prefer the private sector
23 percent prefer local government

Residents were asked to choose between state and local control of the ABC system:
The way it is now with state and county governments sharing control: 40 percent
The state in control: 23 percent
The counties in control: 20 percent
Don’t think government should be in control: 10 percent

More than half (51 percent) of residents think there should be equal state and private sector involvement with alcoholic beverage control in North Carolina, while 23 percent believe only the state should be involved and 20 percent believe only the private sector should be involved.

“Residents are mixed in their assessments about who should control the ABC system, and basically endorse some sort of joint public-private venture for it,” said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll. “Citizens do not want to remove government entirely from the equation and are also not ready to abdicate complete control of the ABC system to the private sector.”

Open Government
North Carolinians are now more aware (46 percent) of the state’s laws allowing public access to government records, information and meetings than they were when polled on the same question a year ago (35 percent). 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.

Most citizens see the value of public access to records. Seventy-four percent said this kind of access is “very important,” while 83 percent feel open records and meetings keep government operations honest. Nearly all (91 percent) respondents feel democracy is best when it operates openly.

When asked whether citizen access to public documents, records, information, and meetings does influence or does not influence government operations:
Does influence: 80 percent
Does not influence: 15 percent

Sixty-eight 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, 78 percent feel exceptions should be made if such action will aid the war on terrorism.
More than half of respondents (56 percent) have attempted to gain access to public documents in the past. Of these individuals, 87 percent were successful in their efforts.

U.S. Census
Ninety-six percent of North Carolinians are aware that they will be receiving a government questionnaire in the mail to fill out for the 2010 U.S. Census. When asked if they would be too busy to fill out the census questionnaire or have time to fill it out and send it back, 95 percent indicated they would fill it out and send it back in, while 4 percent responded they would be too busy and would not fill it out. North Carolinians believe filling out the Census questionnaire matters (87 percent). Only 10 percent believe filling out the questionnaire does not matter.

Click here for full data tables on this poll (PDF)

For more information on this poll, visit www.elon.edu/elonpoll.

ABOUT THE POLL: Using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing lab on campus, Elon University conducts frequent regional and statewide surveys on issues of importance to North Carolina as well as other southern states. Information from these polls is shared with media, citizens and public officials to facilitate informed public policy making through the better understanding of citizens’ opinions and attitudes.

By conducting several public opinion surveys annually, the Elon University Poll is recognized as the “poll of record in North Carolina.”