HPU Poll: Historical Data Suggests NC is Less Trusting of Government in 2015 than 1999

HIGH POINT, N.C., Nov. 23, 2015 – The recent High Point University Poll compared responses between North Carolinians in 2015 and a fall 1999 Carolina Poll fielded with some of the same questions. Respondents in 2015 seem less optimistic about the future, more protective of their rights and somewhat less trusting of other people and government. They are much more likely to have access to the Internet, but are just as likely to refer to themselves as “Southerners” as 16 years ago.

In some ways, the politics of 1999 were very similar to those today. In 1999, there was a Democratic president in the White House finishing up an eventful – sometimes controversial – second term in office. The likely Democratic nominee for president was closely associated with the president’s administration and the Republican primary field was relatively large. In fall 1999, however, Gov. George W. Bush was a clear frontrunner even though he later experienced a challenge from then Sen. John McCain.

The HPU Poll did, however, find some possible differences in how people today feel about themselves, their futures and their government compared to 16 years ago.

In 1999, 56 percent of North Carolinians told the Carolina Poll that life a year from now would be better, compared to 42 percent of HPU Poll respondents who said the same thing in 2015. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of HPU Poll respondents said they trust government officials once in a while or never, compared to 46 percent who gave those responses in 1999. Twenty-nine percent of HPU Poll respondents said they could trust other people once in a while or never compared to 21 percent of fall 1999 Carolina Poll respondents.

When asked which is more important, rights or responsibilities as a citizen, 35 percent of fall 2015 HPU Poll respondents chose rights compared to 21 percent of Carolina Poll respondents. Sixteen years ago, almost three-quarters of respondents believed that they don’t have much to say about what the government does compared to 56 percent of people who said that in response to the HPU Poll in fall 2015.

Some of the most significant changes the HPU Poll examined were the extent to which North Carolinians access the Internet and how they use it. In fall 1999, more than half (54 percent) of Carolina Poll respondents said they used the Internet at home or at work compared to the overwhelming majority (93 percent) of HPU Poll respondents who said they use the Internet today.

Of those people who do use the Internet, they are much more likely to use it to express their own opinions or find out what other people think today than they were 16 years ago.  About a quarter (24 percent) of current HPU Poll respondents with online access said they used the Internet to express their own opinions almost always or a lot of the time compared to only 8 percent of Internet users who said so in 1999. Thirty-eight percent of Internet users responding to the HPU Poll said they use the Internet to find out what other people think almost always or a lot of the time, compared to 12 percent of Internet users who said so in 1999.

The respondents for the polls gave very similar answers for a series of questions about where they lived when they were younger and whether they considered themselves “Southerners.” Sixty-nine percent of HPU Poll respondents said they were Southerners, and in 1999, 71 percent of Carolina Poll respondents said the same thing. When asked what state they lived in when they were 16, about two-thirds (63 percent) of HPU Poll respondents said North Carolina while a very similar 64 percent of Carolina Poll respondents said the same thing.

North Carolinians appear less likely to support laws restricting the sale of handguns, but may be a bit more supportive of the state lottery. Forty-five percent of North Carolinians today say they would support stricter laws covering the sale of handguns, compared to the 64 percent who said in response to the same question in 1999. Before there was a state lottery, 62 percent of people interviewed for the Carolina Poll said they supported it. Today, 71 percent of North Carolinians are in favor, according to the HPU Poll.

“Taken as a whole, I would say that these comparisons give some important clues that North Carolina’s citizens may be in a different mood today than they were 16 years ago,” says Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll and assistant professor of political science. “The differences between poll respondents in 1999 and 2015 suggest they are less trusting of government overall and less optimistic about the future. How that ultimately affects the today’s complicated politics at the national and state levels is not at all clear right now.”

All Adults – Future Outlook

Compared to your life today, do you think that one year from now your life will be better, about the same, or worse than now?HPU and Carolina Poll - Future Outlook

HPU Poll 2015

Better – 42 percent

About the same – 35 percent

Worse – 17 percent

Don’t know/refused – 6 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

Better – 56 percent

About the same – 35 percent

Worse – 6 percent

Don’t know – 4 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Trust of People

How often do you think you can trust other people? Would you say you can trust them (almost) always, a lot of the time, about half the time, once in a while, or never? [NOTE:  the Carolina Poll’s question included “almost always” whereas the HPU Poll included “always”]

HPU Poll 2015

(Almost) Always – 5 percent

A lot of the time – 29 percent

About half of the time – 34 percent

Once in a while – 20 percent

Never – 9 percent

Don’t know/refused – 2 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

(Almost) Always – 11 percent

A lot of the time – 30 percent

About half of the time – 37 percent

Once in a while – 16 percent

Never – 5 percent

Don’t know – 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Trust in Government Officials

How often do you think you can trust government officials? Would you say you can trust them always, a lot of the time, about half the time, once in a while, or HPU and Carolina Poll - Trust in Government Officialsnever?  [NOTE:  the Carolina Poll’s question included “almost always” whereas the HPU Poll included “always”

HPU Poll 2015

(Almost) Always – 1 percent

A lot of the time – 5 percent

About half of the time – 27 percent

Once in a while – 41 percent

Never – 23 percent

Don’t know/refused – 3 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

(Almost) Always – 4 percent

A lot of the time – 8 percent

About half of the time – 39 percent

Once in a while – 35 percent

Never – 11 percent

Don’t know/refused – 3 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Rights

Which do you think is more important, your rights as a citizen, or your responsibilities as a citizen?

HPU Poll 2015

Rights – 35 percent

Responsibilities – 42 percent

Both equally – 23 percent

Don’t know/refused – 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

Rights – 21 percent

Responsibilities – 52 percent

Both equally – 24 percent

Don’t know/refused – 2 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – What the Government Does

Do you agree or disagree that people like you don’t have much to say about what the government does?

HPU Poll 2015

Agree – 56 percent

Disagree – 41 percent

Don’t know/refused – 3 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

Agree – 74 percent

Disagree – 21 percent

Don’t know/refused – 5 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Politics and Public Policy

[HPU POLL NOVEMBER 2015] Do you support or oppose the state lottery in North Carolina?

[CAROLINA POLL FALL 1999] Do you support or oppose a state lottery in North Carolina?

HPU Poll 2015

Support – 71 percent

Oppose – 24 percent

Don’t know/refused – 6 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

Support – 62 percent

Oppose – 31 percent

Don’t know/refused – 7 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Politics and Public Policy, Handguns

In general, do you feel the laws covering the sale of handguns should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now?

HPU Poll 2015

More strict – 45 percent

Less strict – 9 percent

Kept as they are now – 43 percent

Don’t know – 3 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

More strict – 64 percent

Less strict – 6 percent

Kept as they are now – 27 percent

Don’t know – 3 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Internet Usage

Do you ever use the Internet, either at home or at work?

HPU Poll 2015

Yes – 93 percent

No – 7 percent

Don’t know/refused – less than 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

Yes – 54 percent

No – 45 percent

Don’t know/refused – 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Expressing Opinions on the Internet

How often do you use the Internet to express your own opinions?

Would you say it is – almost always, a lot of the time, about half the time, once in a while, or not at all.

HPU Poll 2015

Almost always – 12 percent

A lot of the time – 12 percent

About half of the time – 8 percent

Once in a while – 39 percent

Not at all – 29 percent

Don’t know – less than 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

Almost always – 4 percent

A lot of the time – 4 percent

About half of the time – 7 percent

Once in a while – 36 percent

Not at all – 48 percent

Don’t know – 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Using the Internet to Find Out what People Think

How often do you use the Internet to find out what other people think?

Would you say it is – almost always, a lot of the time, about half the time, once in a while, or not at all.

HPU Poll 2015

Almost always – 19 percent

A lot of the time – 19 percent

About half of the time – 18 percent

Once in a while – 27 percent

Not at all – 17 percent

Don’t know – less than 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

Almost always – 5 percent

A lot of the time – 7 percent

About half of the time – 12 percent

Once in a while – 36 percent

Not at all – 39 percent

Don’t know – 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – State Lived When 16

In what state did you live when you were 16?

HPU Poll 2015

North Carolina – 63 percent

Other – 37 percent

Don’t know/refused – less than 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

North Carolina – 64 percent

Other – 36 percent

Don’t know/refused – less than 1 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

All Adults – Southerner

Some people think of themselves as Southerners; others do not. How about you—would you say that you are a Southerner or not?

HPU Poll 2015

Yes – 69 percent

No – 28 percent

Don’t know/refused – 3 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed November 7 – 12, 2015, n = 610 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4 percent)

Carolina Poll 1999

Yes – 71 percent

No – 26 percent

Don’t know/refused – 3 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed October 23 – 30, 1999, n = 714 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.5 percent)

The most recent HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Nov. 7 – 12, 2015. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 610 adults with landline or cellular telephones. The Survey Research Center contracted with Survey Sampling International to acquire this sample. The survey has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 4 percentage points for all adult respondents. The data is weighted toward population estimates for cellular and landline telephone use, age, gender and race. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls. Details from this survey are available at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/files/2015/11/42memoD.pdf.

The Carolina Poll from which this comparison takes its findings is archived at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Odum Institute. It was fielded October 23-30, 1999, and the responses came from 714 adults with landline phones in North Carolina, giving the survey a margin of sampling error of approximately 4.5 percentage points, according the survey’s sponsors. Results were weighted by household size. All frequencies reported in this release and the HPU memo linked above are from a summary memo downloaded from the Odum Institute’s archive. The Odum Institute requests this format for citing the poll itself: Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Odum Institute For Research in Social Science, 1999, “Carolina Poll Fall 1999”, http://hdl.handle.net/1902.29/D-31374 Odum Institute [Distributor] V1 [Version]

Further results and methodological details from the most recent HPU Poll and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://www.highpoint.edu/src/. The materials online include past press releases as well as memos summarizing the findings (including approval ratings) for each poll since 2010.

The HPU Poll reports methodological details in accordance with the standards set out by AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative, and the HPU Survey Research Center is a Charter Member of the Initiative. For more information, see http://transparency.aapor.org/index.php/transparency.

You can follow the HPU Poll on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HPUSurveyCenter.

Dr. Martin Kifer, assistant professor of political science, serves as the director of the HPU Poll, and Brian McDonald serves as the assistant director of the HPU Poll.

To view video of the HPU Survey Research Center, click here.

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