Local News

Poll: Area Residents Anti-Everything -- Almost

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RALEIGH, N.C. — President George W. Bush, Congress, the North Carolina General Assembly, Wake County Schools, paying highway tolls, tax increases to fund infrastructure improvements.

Triangle-area residents don't like any of them, according to a new WRAL/News & Observer poll. They do like Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong and their local representatives in Washington, D.C., however.

The poll was conducted by Research 2000 of Rockville, Md., which randomly interviewed 1,800 adults in Wake, Durham and Orange counties between Oct. 16 and Oct. 19. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

About two-thirds of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, while about only half said the Triangle was headed in the right direction. Unchecked growth and traffic congestion were listed as the main problems facing the Triangle.

Bush's approval rating locally is less than 30 percent, but he fares better than Congress, which has an approval rating of about 20 percent among area residents. The General Assembly received a rating similar to Bush's.

When residents were asked about the performance of their individual congressional representative, however, the approval rating jumped to about 50 percent. State legislators didn't fare as well, with approval ratings in the mid-30 percent range.

On a series of questions about mass transit in the region, there was some skepticism about the need for it at all. A commuter rail system got the most support at about 40 percent of respondents, but another 20 percent said the Triangle doesn't need mass transit.

The state Turnpike Authority also got some bad news: Local residents intensely dislike the idea of paying highway tolls. Less than 10 percent of residents prefer toll roads as a means of financing highway improvements, according to the poll.

The Turnpike Authority is looking to create the state's first toll roads in western Wake County.

About a third of respondents preferred paying a higher tax on gasoline in order to fund highway improvements, while about 20 percent said the money should come from the federal government.

Individual County Results

The 600 respondents from Wake County were asked a series of questions about Wake County Schools and the proposed $970 million school construction bond issue on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Most residents rated the district "good" or "fair," but 44 percent said local schools are headed in the wrong direction.

More than 50 percent of residents favor converting as many schools to year-round calendars as possible to avoid tax increases.

Some parents vehemently opposed a recent school board decision to convert 19 elementary schools and three middle schools to year-round schedules to accommodate growing enrollments across the county.

While the school bond issue received an unfavorable response in the poll, so did other means of financing school construction. A majority of those surveyed are against implementing an impact fee on new development and a real-estate transfer tax, and almost half said they don't like the idea of a sales tax increase to pay for new schools.

The 600 Durham County residents were asked questions about the district attorney race and the fallout from the rape investigation involving members of the Duke University lacrosse team.

Despite being sharply criticized for his handling of the Duke case, Nifong would be the clear winner among voters if the election were held now. Forty-six percent of those polled said they would vote for him, compared with 28 percent for Durham County Commissioner Lewis Cheek and 2 percent for write-in candidate Steve Monks.

Cheek, who is on the ballot as an independent, isn't campaigning for the DA job and said he wouldn't accept it if he won.

Meanwhile, the Duke case has made almost half of Durham residents feel worse about the town-gown relationship. The responses also reflected a sharp contrast in opinion about the racially charged case.

Forty-three percent of whites polled said the case had no impact on their feelings about the relationship between Durham and Duke, while 67 percent of blacks and 62 percent of Hispanics said the case left them feeling worse about it.

In Orange County, the 600 respondents were asked whether they support a referendum to expand the county Board of Commissioners and hold primary elections in residential districts. Fifty-six percent said they were opposed to the move.

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