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For immediate release.
May 3, 2013
Contact: Bryan Warner, N.C. Center for Voter Education, 919-783-8811 or

Poll: N.C. Voters Voice Strong Support for Judicial Public Financing

RALEIGH – A strong majority of North Carolina voters support the state’s public campaign financing program for judicial candidates, according to a new poll commissioned by the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Voter Education.

The survey finds that 68 percent of state voters favor the judicial public financing program, with just 23 percent opposed. Voters across the political spectrum support judicial public financing, including 67 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of unaffiliated voters.

Evidence of voter support for judicial public financing comes as state lawmakers consider proposals to end the program.

“North Carolina’s innovative public financing program has been a proven success in reducing special interest influence and protecting the integrity of our courts,” said Brent Laurenz, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education. “This latest poll shows strong bipartisan support for continuing the judicial public financing program.”

Since 2004, candidates for the N.C. Supreme Court and N.C. Court of Appeals have been able to voluntarily opt into the judicial public financing program if they agree to strict fundraising and spending limits.

Funding for the judicial public financing program comes through a voluntary $3 check-off option on the state income tax form. Marking "yes" does not raise the amount of taxes paid or decrease a person's refund. Additional funds for the program come through a $50 surcharge paid by attorneys.

In the eight years and five election cycles since it was implemented, 80 percent of candidates for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have participated in the program, including all eight candidates in 2012.

Fifty-one percent of voters say public campaign financing helps judges to be more independent, while just 19 percent say it hurts judicial independence and 19 percent say it makes no difference, while 11 percent are unsure.

The public financing program also pays for a nonpartisan voter guide produced by the State Board of Elections and featuring profiles on each of the candidates running for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, which is then mailed to voters throughout North Carolina in the weeks before Election Day.

The guide is widely supported by North Carolina voters, with 78 percent saying they want the State Board of Elections to continue producing the voter guide, according to the survey.

As a reflection of the public’s support for independent judges, 60 percent say judicial candidates should continue to run in nonpartisan races, and not as candidates from a political party. That opinion is held by 55 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of unaffiliated voters.

The statewide poll of 610 North Carolina voters was conducted Apr. 24-28 by SurveyUSA and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Founded in 1999, the Raleigh-based N.C. Center for Voter Education is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to helping all citizens fully participate in democracy.

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Full poll results, including crosstabs, are available here.

Q1. North Carolina judges are elected. Current state law gives statewide candidates for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals the option of accepting public campaign funding, if they agree to spending limits and refuse money from political action committees and special interest groups. The law also makes elections for judges nonpartisan, which means there is no party affiliation listed on the ballot next to the candidates' names, and provides nonpartisan voter guides which explain the candidates' qualifications. In general, do you strongly support this state law on judicial elections? Somewhat support it? Somewhat oppose it? Or strongly oppose it?

TOTAL SUPPORT: 68 percent
TOTAL OPPOSE: 23 percent

Strongly Support: 30 percent
Somewhat Support: 38 percent
Somewhat Oppose: 15 percent
Strongly Oppose: 8 percent
Not Sure: 9 percent

Q2. Offering public campaign funding to Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidates means those candidates don't need to raise money from people or organizations who may later appear before the court. Does this public financing system help the ability of judges to be independent? Does it hurt their ability to be independent? Or does it not make a difference either way?

Helps: 51 percent
Hurts: 19 percent
No Difference: 19 percent
Not Sure: 11 percent

Q3. Do you support the current system of using non-partisan elections to elect judges? Or should judges run for office as members of political parties?

Non-partisan Elections: 60 percent
Members Of Political Parties: 30 percent
Not Sure: 10 percent

Q4. The nonpartisan voter guide, provided by the state of North Carolina and sent to every registered voter in the state, contains information on judicial candidates and elections. Should the voter guide continue to be distributed? Or should it be eliminated?

Continue To Be Distributed: 78 percent
Eliminated: 12 percent
Not Sure: 10 percent