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For immediate release.
Mar. 10, 2009
Contact: Bryan Warner, N.C. Center for Voter Education, 877-258-6837

N.C. Voters: Extend Legislative Terms, Create Citizens Commission to Set Lawmaker Pay

RALEIGH - A new poll from the N.C. Center for Voter Education finds that North Carolina voters strongly support the creation of an independent commission to set salaries for state lawmakers.

The poll also finds that most North Carolina voters overestimate the current pay rate for legislators, with only 11 percent correctly saying that lawmakers earn less than $25,000. Currently, members of the Legislature receive just under $14,000 per year.

A solid majority of voters -- 88 percent -- believe legislative pay should not be set by lawmakers themselves, but rather by an independent commission comprised of average citizens. Voters are less certain when it comes to raising the pay of lawmakers -- 46 percent oppose a pay raise, 30 percent favor an increase and 24 percent are unsure.

Regarding the length of legislative terms, 55 percent support extending terms to four years in order to reduce the amount of time legislators spend campaigning and raising money. Terms are currently set at two years for members in both the state House and Senate.

Voters are divided on shortening the length of legislative sessions -- 40 percent are opposed, 36 percent are in favor and 24 percent are unsure about reducing the time lawmakers spend in Raleigh.

“This poll shows that North Carolina voters are open to exploring how our lawmakers serve and how we compensate them for their service,” says Damon Circosta, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education. “At a time when our state faces unprecedented challenges, we need to take a serious look at the manner in which our elected officials are asked to serve.”

Commissioned by the N.C. Center for Voter Education, the poll of 818 North Carolina voters was conducted by Public Policy Polling from Mar. 2-3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent.

The N.C. Center for Voter Education is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving elections in North Carolina.

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Q. Do you think that state legislators should set their own salaries, or should they be set by an independent commission made up of average citizens?

Independent commission: 88 percent
Legislators set salaries: 6 percent
Nor sure: 6 percent

Q. Currently all members of the North Carolina legislature serve two-year terms. Some people think we should switch to four-year terms so that members of the legislature don’t have to spend so much time raising money and campaigning. Which would you prefer?

Four-year terms: 55 percent
Two-year terms: 34 percent
Not sure: 12 percent

Q. If you had to guess, how much do you think members of the state Senate and House of Representatives are paid?

Less than $25,000: 11 percent
Between $26,000 and $50,000: 29 percent
Between $51,000 and $75,000: 31 percent
Between $76,000 and $100,000: 14 percent
More than $100,000: 14 percent

Q. Presently a disproportionate number of North Carolina legislators are retired or independently wealthy. Would you support increasing legislative salaries so that a more representative group of North Carolinians would be able to serve?

No: 46 percent
Yes: 30 percent
Not sure: 24 percent

Q. Would you support initiatives designed to limit the length of time that the legislature is in session in Raleigh?

No: 40 percent
Yes: 36 percent
Not sure: 24 percent