Elon Poll finds North Carolinians split on direction of public schools, unprepared for hurricane season

The latest Elon University Poll reveals North Carolinians are split on whether the state’s public schools are headed in the right direction, while a majority of residents have not done anything to prepare for the 2007 hurricane season.

The poll, conducted April 16-19 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 476 North Carolina residents. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they believe public education in North Carolina has gotten off on the wrong track, compared with 42 percent who believe public schools are going in the right direction. Fourteen percent said they didn’t know.

When asked about the public schools in their community and the most important issues facing them, 17 percent said the quality of education and/or teachers was the top issue. Ten percent said overcrowding was an important issue, followed by discipline (9 percent), adequate funding (8 percent), violence and gangs (8 percent), standardized testing (4 percent) and teacher salaries (4 percent). Twenty-three percent said they did not know.

North Carolinians were also asked about state involvement in public schools. Forty-seven percent said the state should take over schools that do not meet state academic performance standards; 36 percent said the state should not take over such schools. Seventy-five percent agree or strongly agree that the state should continue funding school districts whose students do not meet standardized test goals; 18 percent disagree or strongly disagree.

“Education continues to be an issue of interest among North Carolinians, said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll. “This is one of those local issues that is of concern to most North Carolinians as communities struggle to keep up with demands placed on local school systems.”

The poll also surveyed residents about their preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, which officially begins June 1. Sixty-five percent of residents said they have not done anything to prepare for hurricane season, while 29 percent said they have made preparations.

Those who said they had made preparations were asked to identify the most important thing they have done to be ready for hurricane season. Thirty-seven percent said they had purchased supplies of water and food, while 16 percent had improved home safety by removing trees or establishing a safe room in their home. Fourteen percent had purchased a generator; another 14 percent had purchased a hurricane kit with items such as batteries, flashlight, water and food.

When asked how prepared they and their families are for the upcoming hurricane season, 15 percent said they are very prepared, 42 percent said they are somewhat prepared, 25 percent said they haven’t given it much thought, and 12 percent said they are not prepared.

“Although researchers have indicated that this will be an active hurricane season, it seems many residents aren’t paying attention to those forecasts,” Bacot said. “This could be a costly hurricane season for the state should a major storm make landfall, given the apparent lack of preparation on the part of many residents.”

Several questions dealt with crime and punishment issues. Residents were asked if they support or oppose raising from 16 to 18 the age when someone can be treated as an adult for criminal offenses. Forty-seven percent oppose or strongly oppose raising the age, while 37 percent support or strongly support such a change.

Forty-eight percent said the death penalty is the most appropriate punishment for first-degree murder, down from 61 percent in a November 2005 Elon Poll. Thirty-eight percent said life in prison without parole is the correct punishment, compared with 27 percent in the 2005 poll. When asked if they support or oppose the death penalty for first-degree murder, 58 percent said they support it; 31 percent oppose it. When asked if they support or oppose life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder, 66 percent said they support it and 29 percent were opposed.

“North Carolinians continue to support the death penalty, but there is some slippage in this support over time,” said Bacot. “Given the number of high profile cases surrounding the death penalty and the establishment of the N.C. Innocence Commission last year, people may be questioning their own views about the death penalty."

The Elon University Poll has conducted several polls annually since 2000. The non-partisan Elon University Poll conducts frequent scientific telephone polls on issues of importance citizens. The poll results are shared with media, citizens and researchers to facilitate representative democracy and public policy making through the better understanding of the opinions and needs of citizens in the state and region.