When it comes to police officers wearing body cameras, a vast majority of North Carolinians approve of their use, a new Elon University poll found.
But support for publicly releasing that footage varied depending on people’s political beliefs or race, according to the poll released Wednesday.
The poll is the university’s fourth on issues related to open government. It surveyed 867 adults in February, and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.33 percentage points.
The poll found that 91 percent of the respondents favored on-duty officers wearing the cameras.
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In January, Charlotte City Council unanimously voted to spend $7 million on body cameras with the goal of getting them to all patrol officers by October.
Poll Director Kenneth Fernandez said people see the cameras as a common-sense plan, especially in the wake of attention focused on police shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.
But only 63 percent of the people surveyed thought the camera footage should be made public.
Looking closer at the numbers, 70 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans favored the release. And 78 percent of African-Americans surveyed also favored the release, while 58 percent of white respondents felt that way.
Here’s a look at other components of the poll:
A majority of respondents, 62 percent, did not know that sunshine laws exist for the public to inspect government records.
“That number is disheartening because sunshine laws are so important for the public to understand how their government is performing, said Jonathan Jones, director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition. “If you don’t know your rights, you can’t use them.”
He said his organization has a lot of work to do to educate the public about how to get government information.
In other government transparency questions, three-fourths of those surveyed believe the names of people who donate to political campaigns should be public, and 69 percent think all government meetings should be open to the public.
People in the survey trust their local government more than they do the state or federal government: 53 percent trusted their local government most of the time or just about always.
That number fell to 32 percent for state government and 22 percent for the federal government.
If there is some solace for the feds, it’s that trust in them rose from the 14-percent level the survey found in 2013. Those low numbers might have to do with the government shut-down that year, Fernandez said.
These apparently are the bad old days: Nearly 69 percent of the respondents said there is more government corruption now than a century ago.
Fernandez said most historians might disagree with that assessment, but people could be responding to a mix of nostalgia and skepticism of today’s political environment.
The use of drones by law enforcement is a divisive issue, the poll found, with 47 percent supporting it and 45 percent opposed.
There also was partisan divide here; 56 percent of Republicans favored drone use, compared to 46 percent of Democrats.