November 23, 2009

Elon Poll: N.C. residents cynical about politicians

North Carolinians lack much trust or faith in politicians, and a majority of citizens question the intent of elected officials to serve the public interest, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

The poll, conducted Nov. 16-19, surveyed 563 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones.

More than half of respondents (61 percent) believe corruption in North Carolina politics is more widespread today than it was 10 years ago. Other findings from the poll:

  • 73 percent of respondents think corruption is common among elected officials
  • 65 percent think elected officials look out more for their own interests than the public’s interest
  • 67 percent think corrupt behavior among North Carolina public officials is becoming more common

Respondents did not express trust in either legislative body at the national level or state level, but they do appear to trust North Carolina legislators in Raleigh more than they trust congressional legislators in Washington.

When asked to focus on the various factions in the North Carolina General Assembly, more than half of citizens strongly approved or approved of their own state representative (59 percent) or senator (61 percent); more than half of North Carolinians (55 percent) approved or strongly approved of the General Assembly as a whole.

Neither the Republican or Democratic party in the General Assembly exceeded 50 percent support among respondents: 47 percent of North Carolinians approved or strongly approved of Democrats, while 44 percent approved or strongly approved of Republicans.

“The intense frustration with government and politicians among North Carolinians could pose serious ramifications for the electoral landscape in 2010,” said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll. “Coupled with a poor economy, the midterm elections may shape up as more of a referendum on government in general rather than the typical repudiation of the party in power.”

However, North Carolinians have faith in the government, with 74 percent indicating their belief that the United States has the best government in the world and 65 percent who will support it regardless of what takes place in Washington.