Poll: One in four residents say they don't know about NC coal ash spill
Posted March 3, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.
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.