Poll: One in four residents say they don't know about NC coal ash spill

Posted March 3, 2014

— One out of every four North Carolina voters surveyed said they knew "nothing at all" about a coal ash spill that dumped nearly 40,000 tons of toxic ash into the Dan River, according to the most recent Elon University Poll. 

However, the fact that roughly three quarter of respondents say they know either "a lot" or "a little" about the spill is "remarkable," said Kenneth Fernandez, the poll's director. 

The survey of 925 registered voters asked respondents whether they knew "a lot," "a little," or "nothing at all" about the spill, which has drawn statewide scrutiny to the practice of keeping coal waste in ponds perched near rivers used for drinking water and recreation. 

Source: March 3, 2014 Elon University Poll

A little over one-third of respondents said they knew a lot about the story, which involves the state's regulation of one of the state's biggest companies, Duke Energy. Another 38 percent said they knew something about the spill. 

"This means it's actually is a salient issue," Fernandez said. 

However, that doesn't mean it is a looming issue for this year's elections, he said. In order for voters to start making ballot selections based on the spill, Fernandez said, there needs to be "a policy entrepreneur" who seizes on the issue and keeps it in the public's consciousness. 

As for the number of people who said they "know nothing" about the spill, Fernandez said that even professionals who think of themselves as avid news consumers can miss big items in the news.

"For the average person, even professionals, these things slip their radar," he said.


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  • James McFetridge Mar 5, 2014
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    Elements like sulphur, arsenic, and mercury have other industrial uses and can be used in positive ways. While the spill and corruption of natural resources is a terrible disaster, it seems to me that there isn't some process in place for refining the coal ash to extract some of these elements for other uses, using some form of industrial chemistry.

  • zwamus Mar 5, 2014

    It would be nice know the exact questions that were asked in the poll. Pollsters that have an agenda driven polls tend to shade the issue with confusing questions. This is typical for politically driven issues that pretend to be environmentally sound. I don't trust the pollster more or less than the subject of the poll.

  • Terry Watts Mar 4, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    If it were up to Duke Power, 100% of the NC Population wouldn't know about the Ash Spill...

  • HeadsUp Mar 4, 2014

    Actually, it is bad news for Duke that 3 in 4 DO know about its coal ash river contamination.

  • Robert Turner Mar 4, 2014
    user avatar

    I switched from county water back to well water till I know for sure its safe to use.I have always kept my well ready for you never know what to expect and water is the one thing you need to survive.

  • free2bme Mar 4, 2014

    It makes you wonder. Just who are these people polling. Maybe they should poll a more knowledgeable and varied audience.

  • aqak33 Mar 4, 2014


  • davidgnews Mar 4, 2014

    "Poll: One in four residents say they don't know about NC coal ash spill"

    No doubt the governor and Duke Energy would prefer to have kept it that way !!!

  • JAT Mar 4, 2014

    1 in 4 don't know who our Governor is. 1 in 4 have no clue about most things.

  • teddymac12 Mar 4, 2014

    Divide and conquer it has been working well the past decade for both DEM/REP on every comment board on the internet I see!!!! ~SMH~ there are other choices people.