Civic Health: The Value of Transparency and Accountability
North Carolinians demonstrate a trend in American politics that signals a bipartisan desire for more transparency and accountability in government.
This piece was adapted from a piece originally published by the John Locke Foundation on December 5, 2023.
Last week, the John Locke Foundation released results from their recent Civitas Poll, which surveyed likely North Carolina general election voters on topics including the importance of open records laws.
To see the full results from the latest Civitas Poll, click here.
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Let’s break down a couple of key findings:
First and foremost, these results show that North Carolinians want and value transparency. Over ninety-three percent of likely voters in North Carolina believe that open record laws are essential to maintaining accountability, with an astounding 56.5% believing it’s extremely important.
Surveyed voters were asked a few different questions regarding open records laws, one of them being: Do you agree or disagree that increased transparency through open records laws would enhance public trust in state legislators?
The response to this question? 82.5% of poll respondents agreed, with 58.4% strongly agreeing.
In a statement following the release of the poll, Locke CEO Donald Bryson highlighted the findings, saying:
“The overwhelming support for open records laws among North Carolinians, as evidenced by the Civitas Poll, clearly demonstrates a public demand for transparency and accountability in governance…voters, generally, do not believe legislators deserve special privileges compared to other public servants. My advice to the General Assembly is to reverse the open records changes in this year’s state budget before it becomes a political liability.”
Back in October, a coalition of news and public organizations, including The John Locke Foundation and The Carolina Journal, sent a public letter to members of the North Carolina General Assembly expressing concerns about the changes to public records laws made in September and urged lawmakers to make changes to provide more transparency, not less.
In October, after the revisions to open-record laws, I raised this question in an article. It’s a question that I still have two months later: What happened to public records being “property of the people?”
Friend, if the results from the latest Civitas Poll show us anything, it’s that North Carolinians, and Americans broadly, value transparency and that it’s crucial in enhancing public trust in lawmakers. I echo Donald’s call for North Carolina lawmakers to reverse the changes to public record laws in this year’s state budget, and for governing authorities at all levels to value accountability as a key ingredient to civic health.
In this age of escalating skepticism towards government, it is imperative that we assertively champion the cause of governmental transparency with our legislators. Transparency fosters trust, assuring citizens that their government operates in their favor, not against them, giving voters a sense of peace and security.
Bethany Torstenson is a graduate of Vanguard University of Southern California where she double-majored in broadcast journalism and political science. A veteran of multiple and local political campaigns, she currently serves as Digital Manager and Writer for the John Locke Foundation. @beth_torstenson
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