Elon, N.C. — A slight majority of North Carolina residents say the public shouldn't have to pay to obtain copies of government records, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Elon University Poll surveyed 732 residents statewide Nov. 15-18, a week before stories circulated that Gov. Pat McCrory's administration was demanding payment for the retrieval of emails and other public records. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.62 percentage points.
McCrory's staff is charging news organizations and others for the cost of time spent on public records requests that take more than 30 minutes. North Carolina law states that such records "are the property of the people" and that copies should be provided "as promptly as possible" at "free or at minimal cost."
Fifty-one percent of respondents in the Elon poll said there should be no fee should be charged to obtain public records. Of those who said there should be a fee, the average amount was $14, although responses ranged from $1 to $90.
Three-fifths of those polled said it's important for people to be able to get any document they want from government, but 63 percent said government is justified in keeping some information secret.
Among the information most North Carolina residents say should be available to the public are campaign contributions, public officials' expenses, public employee salaries, criminal records and government documents on the location of hazardous materials.
A majority of respondents said people shouldn't have access to government employee emails and voter registration records.
Asked whether state government is more open than five years ago, respondents split, with 41 percent saying it's less transparent and 33 percent saying it's more transparent. The responses predictably broke along party lines, with a majority of Republicans giving the McCrory administration a thumbs-up and most Democrats saying things were better five years ago.
Only 26 percent of those surveyed said they trust state government most or all of the time, compared with 49 percent who said they trust local government and 14 percent who said they trust federal government.