Majority of North Carolinians Want to Continue Electing Judges

May 18th, 2018

Majority of North Carolinians Want to Continue Electing Judges

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HIGH POINT, N.C., May 18, 2018 – The High Point University Survey Research Center and Department of Criminal Justice conducted a statewide poll and analysis on North Carolinians’ level of awareness and support for potential changes to the way the state appoints judges.

The poll found that 49 percent of survey participants were unaware that North Carolina is considering changing the way it appoints judges from direct elections to appointment by the governor or the General Assembly. A total of 47 percent of respondents had some level of awareness, including 11 percent who said they were highly aware, 16 percent moderately aware and 20 percent slightly aware.

A 75 percent majority strongly prefer to directly elect judges, while 8 percent prefer appointment by the governor and 10 percent prefer appointment by the General Assembly.

“We found that almost half of the registered voters we surveyed were aware of the issue,” says Dr. Bobby Little, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice. “In our analysis, we didn’t find any similarities in the demographics of those who prefer to keep judge appointments election-based. They represented a wide variety of people across the board.”

The Survey Research Center conducted the poll in late February. Little and Dr. Thomas Dearden, assistant professor of criminal justice, analyzed and recently produced a preliminary report about the findings, which they plan to submit for publication.

Their findings remain timely as the North Carolina General Assembly recently began a legislative session that may include discussions about the reform of judicial appointments.

“This study made sense for our department as judges are an integral part of the criminal justice system,” says Little. “Judges are critical to the outcomes of justice, and we hope these results are of value to the general public who may or may not be familiar with this conversation.”


Level of Awareness Judicial Appointment Reform

How aware are you that the NC state government is considering a major change in the way judges are selected to serve full terms of office?

Unaware – 49 percent

Slightly aware – 20 percent

Moderately aware – 16 percent

Highly aware – 11 percent  

Don’t know/Refuse – 4 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed Feb. 19-25, 2018, n = 513 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.3 percent)


Preference for Judicial Appointment Methods

Now, please tell me which ONE of these three methods of choosing judges you prefer…

Direct election by the voters within the election district – 75 percent

Appointment by the Governor – 8 percent

Appointment by the North Carolina General Assembly – 10 percent

Don’t know/refuse/none of these – 8 percent

(All adult (North Carolina resident) sample surveyed Feb. 19-25, 2018, n = 513 and margin of sampling error approximately = +/- 4.3 percent)


This HPU Poll was fielded by live interviewers at the High Point University Survey Research Center calling on Feb. 19-25, 2018. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 513 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 4.3 percentage points for all adult respondents. The data is weighted toward population estimates for cellular and landline telephone use, age, gender, race, and education level based on U.S. Census and CDC numbers for North Carolina. 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

Further results and methodological details from the most recent survey and past studies can be found at the Survey Research Center website at 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

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