Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some thoughts on the public finance poll results

Post by Jonathan Crook, PPP Summer Fellow

Last week we took a look at how North Carolinians view the N.C. Judicial Finance Reform Act, the official name of the full public finance system for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals elections. The results generally show that voters like the program, with 60% saying that they either strongly or somewhat favor it.

However, not everyone is sold on the effects that the law is having. While a whopping 71% feel like candidates cannot take money from lawyers without creating a conflict of interests, only 28% feel that the law, first put into action in the 2004 election, is helping to curb corruption.

Obviously the word "corruption" carries some weight that differentiates it from other forms of malfeasance, but look at the numbers. In 2002 40% of the money donated to state Supreme Court candidates came from lawyers. That number dropped to 11% in 2004 after the enactment of the law, with the majority of funds, 64%, coming from the program.

Clearly the respondents who said that money from lawyers undermines the system would be pleased with this data, but what explains the dropoff in those who think the law is actually working? It may stem from the fact that only 48% of voters knew the program existed before taking our poll.

The public finance system in North Carolina is a sound one, and the numbers are showing that it is effective. Maybe the laws that actually work don't get the same amount of publicity as those that fail.

Full results here

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