Local News

Poll: Public-Smoking Ban Supported by Majority in N.C.

Posted October 2, 2007 11:18 a.m. EDT
Updated October 2, 2007 2:58 p.m. EDT

— Sixty-eight percent of North Carolina residents support a statewide law that would ban smoking in public places, including public buildings, offices bars and restaurants, according to the latest results of last month's Elon University poll.

Nearly the same number of respondents, 67 percent, would also favor local governments making the decision on whether to ban smoking in public places.

Although a majority of respondents indicated support for legislation that would ban smoking in public places, in assessing who is responsible for the regulation of smoking, 62 percent said the decision should be left to business owners.

"Citizens still seem torn between regulating business in the best interest of their health," said poll director Hunter Bacot. "This is a classic individual interest versus public-interest issue as, on the one hand, citizens support by wide margins laws banning smoking in public places, but, on the other hand and by similar opinion margins, they think that such decisions should remain that of the individual business owner.

"Add into this issue debate, the history of tobacco in North Carolina, and you have an incredibly complex issue to deal with that will prove quite challenging to resolve," Bacot said.

The poll, conducted Sept. 24-27 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 664 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percent. The sample is of the general population and does not restrict respondents by their voter eligibility or their likelihood of voting in an election.

Respondents also answered questions about land transfer taxes as a way for local governments to raise money. According to results, 67 percent oppose the measure, which is on the ballot this fall for more than a dozen counties.

But opposition weakened to 43 percent when they were asked if they would support such a tax if the revenue went to education.

Less than half of respondents, 47 percent, said they support or strongly support the idea of impact fees, which local governments would collect from new developments to offset the costs to the county caused by the development.

"With these results, the prospects for passing a transfer tax in North Carolina counties doesn’t look promising as citizens indicate that local referenda on the transfer tax will face an uphill battle," Bacot said. "While it may pass in some counties due to purely local circumstances, citizens across the state are adamantly against this tax."

Elementary and secondary education was named the top issue in the state, with slightly more than 20 percent of respondents indicating that to be the most important issue facing the state. The economy was second with 13.8 percent; and immigration was third with 8.5 percent. Gas prices was the lowest concern among 1 percent of respondents.

Fifty-three percent of respondents also said the undocumented immigration of Hispanics or Latinos has been bad for North Carolina. More than two-third of respondents – 68 percent – disagreed with a proposal that would allow immigrants to stay in North Carolina as long as they have a job.

The poll also measured attitudes on several public policy issues, including stem cell research. Fifty-six percent of respondents indicated support for medial research that uses stem cells from human embryos and 54 percent support using public funding for stem cell research.

"Generally, such support in a conservative state like North Carolina for a value-based issue like embryonic stem cell research is a bit surprising," Bacot said.

"Yet, assessing this issue more closely and recognizing the prominence of the medical research community in this state, it should not be so surprising to see such widespread support for both medical research and public funding of such research among citizens in this state."