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Poll: Government documents should be free to public

Posted December 4, 2013

— 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.

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  • Bill Brasky Dec 5, 2013

    "You mean the intel that shows Clinton dropped the ball on supporting intelligence operations that left us open for attack?"

    Thats not what the 9/11 commission stated when they said that the Bush administration was asleep at the helm prior to the terrorist attacks.

  • Offshore Dec 5, 2013

    or......... the intel prior to 9/11? Just saying
    99percenters

    You mean the intel that shows Clinton dropped the ball on supporting intelligence operations that left us open for attack?

  • GOPtakersSociety Dec 5, 2013

    Yes it's true. Unless they're documents that expose the criminal activity of Comrade Obama and his administration during Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Solyndra, wiretapping of the public, etc. You know, all of the stuff that the public has forgotten, and the media doesn't care about.

    meeper

    or......... the intel prior to 9/11? Just saying

  • GOPtakersSociety Dec 5, 2013

    This will cost someone money let me guess "THE TAX PAYER"

    Left thinking people spend your own money. "STOP" trying to spend my money

    It is time for you people to start paying your own way

    pappybigtuna1

    SHOULDN'T COST ANYTHING! It's public information...that's the point......what is your Governor trying to hide????

  • pappybigtuna1 Dec 5, 2013

    This will cost someone money let me guess "THE TAX PAYER"

    Left thinking people spend your own money. "STOP" trying to spend my money

    It is time for you people to start paying your own way

  • Six String Dec 5, 2013

    "Claims like this always seem odd.

    How, specifically, is the _poll_ left wing?" junkmail.

    That's easy: anything that is contrary to their opinion is either radical, left wing, or liberal. No proof needed since facts tend to get in the way.

  • xylem01 Dec 5, 2013

    Should also include photo ID's as well!

  • junkmail5 Dec 5, 2013

    Great, another left wing poll trying to elicit policy from public ignorance.
    LetsBeFair

    Claims like this always seem odd.

    How, specifically, is the _poll_ left wing?

  • LetsBeFair Dec 5, 2013

    Somewhere the government picked your pocket and paid for this when they call it free. When it's not free is when it's on demand.

  • LetsBeFair Dec 5, 2013

    Great, another left wing poll trying to elicit policy from public ignorance.

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