News

New Elon Poll looks at NC views on opioid crisis

If you’ve followed NC Policy Watch’s ongoing coverage of the opioid epidemic and the state’s reaction to it, you’ll want to check out the results of the latest Elon University Poll.

Among its findings: about one in three North Carolinians surveyed have been personally affected by opioid dependence or has a close relationship with someone who has.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of those polled viewed prescription drugs as more of a problem than illicit street drugs like heroin. That lines up with the opinions of experts who study the problem.

Most respondents also believe their community does not have the proper resources to deal with the problem.

That shouldn’t come as a shock to those who have been following the state response to the problem.

The state budget passed over the summer improved funding for the state’s Controlled Substances Reporting System and funneled $10 million in federal grants to treatment services.

But it was well under what the governor called for in his suggested budget and only about half of what was called for in the bi-partisan Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act.

A small pilot program to treat opiate overdoses was funded in Wilmington, one of the worst places in the country for opioid abuse.

What may be a surprise is the divide over how best to handle the problem.

From the poll:

Political party affiliation produced little variation in the responses across many of the questions related to the opioid crisis in this survey, but not when it comes to opinions about the best way to address the issue — the criminal justice system vs. the health care system.

Overall, 56 percent of respondents said the health care system is the best way to deal with the problem, with 61 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents holding that view compared to 48 percent of Republicans. As for favoring the criminal justice system, 31 percent of Republicans held that view compared to 18 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of independents. Overall, 21 percent favored the criminal justice system.

The poll – a live-caller, dual-frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 771 registered voters in North Carolina – was conducted Nov. 6-9 and has a margin of error +/-3.5 percent.

News

New university polls show NC opinions on Trump, Cooper, gun laws

New polls from both Elon University and High Point University are out this week.

The live-call polls, featuring the opinions of North Carolinians, shed light on state opinions on the jobs being done by President Donald Trump and Gov. Roy Cooper, as well as shifting views on gun laws in the wake of the most recent mass shootings.

The latest Elon poll is the result of a  live-caller, dual-frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 771 registered voters in North Carolina conducted Nov. 6-9. Survey results have a margin of error +/-3.5 percent.

The poll shows Gov. Roy Cooper’s approval basically holding steady at 49 percent – up one point from April’s poll.

That’s significantly better than the approval ratings of Trump or Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

From the poll:

Trump’s approval rating in the state has slightly improved during the past month, with 37 percent now approving of how he is handling the job of president, compared to 34 percent in the Elon Poll results released Oct. 3. Close to 50 percent of N.C. voters approve of how Gov. Roy Cooper is handling his job, while less than a third approve of how U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis are handling theirs.

Both Burr and Tillis have even lower approval ratings among those in their home state – though some of that seems to be tied to how they’ve dealt with Trump.

Senators Burr and Tillis are both disapproved more than approved by North Carolina voters. Senator Burr
has slight higher approval levels than Senator Tillis (31% vs. 28%). Perhaps due to Senator Burr’s
leadership on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 27% of those who approve of President
Trump disapprove of Senator Burr. Tillis is disapproved of by 21% of Trump supporters.
We asked voters if Senators Burr and Tillis should be more supportive or less supportive of President
Trump. A plurality, 45.6% said less supportive while 38.5% said more supportive.

The HPU poll took a look at opinions on existing and proposed gun laws, finding a slight uptick in already strong support for banning high capacity ammunition clips, assault-style weapons and online ammunition sale. A proposed ban on so-called “bump stocks” that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more quickly was also had overwhelming support in the poll.

The HPU Poll asked North Carolinians about a list of possible approaches to reducing gun violence. Ninety-two percent say they favor requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers, including those buying at gun shows and through private sales. In a March 2016 HPU Poll, 89 percent of North Carolina residents favored the same proposal.

In the most recent HPU Poll, 91 percent of those surveyed say they favor providing services for mentally ill people who show violent tendencies. Eighty-eight percent of North Carolinians supported that same proposal in 2016.

Similar proportions of North Carolinians in 2017 (88 percent) and 2016 (84 percent) said they support improving enforcement of existing gun laws.

In both the 2017 and 2016 polls, majorities also favored banning high capacity ammunition clips, assault style weapons and the sale of ammunition online. Respondents were split on whether reducing access to violent movies and video games would help reduce gun violence.

The 2017 poll included a proposed ban on “bump stocks” that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more like they are fully automatic. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of North Carolinians favor that proposal.

And when asked whether they would support a federal licensing requirement for people to legally own guns, 83 percent of North Carolina residents say they are in favor.

The latest HPU poll is the result of  live-call interviews conducted at the High Point University Survey Research Center from Oct. 27 – Nov. 4. The responses from a sample of all North Carolina counties came from 352 adults with landline or cellular telephones. The survey has an estimated margin of sampling error of approximately 5.2 percentage points for all adult respondents.

News

Opposition to Silent Sam, surveillance of protest groups, continues to grow

If you’ve been following our coverage of the controversy over “Silent Sam,” the only Confederate monument on a UNC Campus, you’ll want to mark your calendar for a few things this week.

On Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. there will be a rally at the South Building on the UNC campus at Chapel Hill to demand answers on the undercover police surveillance of those protesting the monument.

Responding to controversy over the use of an undercover officer who used an assumed name and life-story to ingratiate himself with protesters, UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken released a statement saying the move was simply to protect students from a potential “violent outbreak.”

Various student, faculty and civil rights watchdog groups are skeptical of that justification — including the non-profit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

FIRE recently backed a controversial university speech policy that students, faculty and the American Civil Liberties Union worry could be misapplied and have have a chilling effect on free speech.

But in a statement, the group stood up for anti-Silent Sam protesters and decried the use of undercover police officers to monitor their activities:

It’s not unheard of for a university to use undercover officers. The University of Chicago did the same thing in 2013, with an on-duty detective marching in plain clothes in a protest calling for a trauma center to be re-opened on campus. (An on-campus trauma center is planned for 2018.) And the nature of undercover work means that we can’t know how often it really happens; at best, we know how often the officer is exposed.

The use of undercover officers to keep tabs on people engaged in First Amendment activities, however, creates a serious risk of chilling speech. We at FIRE believe undercover officers should not be used to infiltrate groups engaged in First Amendment activity as a general surveillance technique.

In 2006, the ACLU of Northern California wrote a guide of “best practices” for surveillance of First Amendment activity. The good advice contained therein is applicable here. The guide recommends that surveillance should only happen when there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct (beyond the “civil disobedience” of protesting); a relationship between the First Amendment activity and the conduct being investigated; and when there are no less-chilling alternatives (such as openly investigating crime as police are trained to do, or using security cameras in public locations).

The threat posed by undercover surveillance of protest groups goes beyond the chilling effect on the speech of those groups. It also contributes to the sense that police and student activists are adversaries. That mistrust complicates the ability of uniformed police officers to do their jobs and reduces the likelihood that students will come forward with information they otherwise would have shared.

Public safety is the ultimate goal of campus law enforcement. We hope UNC’s police, and all campus police, consider the effect of this kind of activity before deciding to spy on students exercising their First Amendment rights in the future.

 

Meanwhile, the on-campus momentum against the monument continues to grow with new statements from the Department of Communication and the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies.

The statement from the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies is particularly strong:

For years, we have taught this monument’s fraught history and called attention to the negative signal it sends to contemporary students, faculty, and other UNC workers, especially African Americans. In the wake of Charlottesville, and given the resurgence of a white nationalist movement which has adopted such Jim Crow era statues as proud icons, the meaning of Silent Sam is no longer in doubt. No explanatory plaque, or alternative monument in the vicinity, can adequately counteract or compensate for the divisive, racially charged message this statue loudly projects. In accordance with the university’s core values, the Department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies is committed to diversity and inclusion in all its functions. To leave Silent Sam where he stands, at perhaps the most prominent site on university grounds, can only be seen as inconsistent with that core mission. Most disturbingly, the statue invites violent groups, who could pose real danger to students and everyone else on campus. If the statue is of historical interest, let it be moved to a historical museum.

Students and faculty intend to speak on the opposition to Silent Sam and to UNC police surveillance of the movement at Wednesday’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting.

The meeting will be held at the Carolina Inn, 211 Pittsboro St. in Chapel Hill. It will begin at 8 a.m. with the public comment portion beginning at 9 a.m.

 

News

Women, progressives rule election day in Greensboro

 

Michelle Kennedy was elected to an at-large seat on the Greensboro city council this week, becoming the city’s first openly gay member of the city council. One of a number of progressive first-time candidates, Kennedy will be part of the first city council to include no white male members. (Photo by Lauren Barber, Triad City Beat)

There were bigger, more expensive and more contentious local elections in Raleigh and Charlotte – but this week’s results in the state’s third largest city were historic on a number of levels.

Greensboro voters elected their first openly gay member of the city council in Michelle Kennedy, one of a number of progressive first-time candidates we profiled at N.C. Policy Watch over the summer.

Kennedy will be part of another first – a Greensboro City Council without a single white male member.

With eight women – three black, five white – and one black man, it will be a very different council.

Allen Johnson, opinions editor at Greensboro’s daily News & Record newspaper, thinks that’s likely to be a good thing.

If empirical data is any indication, they may do a better job than us guys.

“According to decades of data from around the world, The New York Times reported in a 2016 story, “Women govern differently than men do in some important ways. They tend to be more collaborative and bipartisan.”

In a study of women in Congress, the American Journal of Political Science found that they tend to sponsor and co-sponsor more bills than their male counterparts – and to bring 9 percent more in federal funding to their home districts.

And while the Times story points out that women pass fewer bills, “women also have advantages in governing — and the biggest gender differences appear during behind-the-scenes work.”

A variety of studies, the Times reports, “have found the biggest gender differences appear during behind-the-scenes work.

That research has found “that women interrupt less (but are interrupted more), pay closer attention to other people’s nonverbal cues and use a more democratic leadership style compared with men’s more autocratic style. The result is that women build coalitions and reach consensus more quickly, researchers say.

“Women share their power more; men guard their power,” Michael A. Genovese, director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University, told the Times.

Greensboro City Council elections are non-partisan, but the new council will be composed entirely of registered Democrats ranging from center left to strongly progressive. That’s appears to be another first, at least in living memory, even in a reliably blue city.

The council’s only remaining Republican, Tony Wilkins, was ousted by progressive Democrat Tammi Thurm, by a decisive ten points.

Kennedy was elected at-large – which is to say, by voters from the entire city rather than a particular district where she may have been able to count on an ideologically friendly cache of voters in one area.

She told area weekly Triad City Beat the election night message was pretty clear.

“I think this has been a clear message Greensboro is ready for new leadership that better reflects the values of the community,” said Kennedy, who wore a UE Local 150 Greensboro City Workers Union T-shirt as she celebrated in the Old County Courthouse with other victorious candidates.

Thanks to a change in election laws this week’s victors will also serve four year terms.

One of the most progressive city councils in the city’s history, composed entirely of Democrats and with no white men, locked in for four years.

It is safe to say this was not the result Sen. Trudy Wade, formerly one of Greensboro’s most conservative city council members, was looking to achieve when she set out to change the city’s electoral maps and voting laws.

But newly elected council members say the firestorm that created – a long with a lot of push back on a number of actions of the General Assembly in Raleigh – likely fueled this week’s results.

 

 

 

News

Noose found at NC A&T/UNCG joint school part of disturbing trend

Disturbing news out of Greensboro Wednesday as a noose was found hanging at N.C. A&T and UNCG’s Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

From the story in weekly paper Triad City Beat:

The discovery was made around 9:30 a.m. in an academic building, according to an incident report filed by NC A&T University Police. UNCG Police joined NC A&T Police in responding to the incident, although NC A&T University Police took the lead in the investigation, UNCG Police Chief Paul Lester said.

Lester said a security guard working overnight at the facility for a security company under contract with Gateway University Research Park, which manages the facility, took responsibility for the incident

“The person responsible came forward on their own,” Lester said. “There was no note or threat or anything. Obviously, it was entirely inappropriate. I believe the individual realized that after the fact. It was just a really bad idea on his part.”

NC A&T University identified the person responsible for the noose as Lindsay Willetts, a white male, in a written response to questions submitted by the Student Government Association.

Lester said the security guard responsible for fashioning the noose found some rope that was being used as part of an experiment by a student.

“It was intended as a joke,” Lester said. “He didn’t intend any harm. We didn’t take it lightly.”

Lester said the security company immediately terminated the responsible person’s employment, and he will no longer be allowed on the premises.

It may be hard to discern how a noose hanging in facility that’s part of the Triad’s most prominent historically black university is a joke – and neither administrators nor students took it that way, releasing a series of statements on the incident condemning it as hate, intolerance and a statement of white supremacy.

But it’s not hard to believe that it happened. Available data shows hate crimes up over the last year in many major cities with an uptick in high profile incidents on campuses across the country.

That wouldn’t come as a surprise to many of the students protesting the “Silent Sam” Confederate memorial on UNC’s Chapel Hill campus. Last week they told the UNC Board of Governors they’ve spent months enduring threats, racial slurs and even monkey noises as they demonstrate in front of the statue. They also have undercover police gathering information on them while there has been no apparent effort to investigate those harassing them.