Local Politics

Poll: People don't trust politicians

Posted November 24, 2009 11:33 a.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2009 11:57 a.m. EST

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— North Carolina residents lack much trust or faith in politicians, and a majority doubt that elected officials serve the public interest, according to an Elon University Poll released Tuesday.

The poll, which was conducted Nov. 16-19, surveyed 563 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Almost three-fourths of those surveyed said they believe corruption is common among elected officials, while 65 percent think elected officials look out more for their own interests than the public’s interest. More than half said campaign contributions influence political decisions "a lot."

“The intense frustration with government and politicians among North Carolinians could pose serious ramifications for the electoral landscape in 2010,” Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll, said in a statement. “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.”

Respondents didn't express trust in either the General Assembly or Congress, but they appeared to trust state lawmakers more than congressional legislators. Half of those surveyed said corruption was more prevalent in Washington, D.C., compared with 17 percent who said it was more widespread in Raleigh. Twelve percent said all levels of politics are corrupt.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said they believe corruption in North Carolina politics is more widespread now than it was 10 years ago, and two-thirds said corrupt behavior among North Carolina public officials is becoming more common.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said she doesn't find the poll results surprising, and she said she hopes her push for more transparency in government will change the perception that state government is corrupt.

"I tend to agree with the poll. If I'd been asked, I would have to honestly say, to me, I don't know what was going on 10 years ago, but I've never seen anything like the last several years," Perdue said. "I think the fact that people still can ask really pointed questions about transparency and accountability is the wrong thing for North Carolina."

Neither political party in the General Assembly got a majority approval rating in the poll, with 47 percent saying they approved or strongly approved of Democrats and 44 percent saying they approved or strongly approved of Republicans.

Respondents were more favorable when they were asked about their own legislators. Fifty-nine percent gave positive reviews to their House member, and 61 percent approved of their senator. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they approved or strongly approved of the General Assembly as a whole.

Despite the negative feelings of state residents, 74 percent said they believe the United States has the best government in the world, and 65 percent said they would support the government regardless of what takes place in Washington.