Political Notebook: Local polls find increasing number of North Carolinians want COVID-19 vaccine

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Recent High Point University and Elon University polls show an increasing majority of North Carolinians plan to or have received the COVID-19 vaccination.

For the High Point poll, a total of 941 North Carolina residents responded from March 19 to April 1. A total of 50% of respondents indicated they were concerned about becoming sick with COVID-19, while 37% reported they weren’t concerned. Additionally, nearly 70% indicated they were concerned to at least some degree with the different variants of the virus that were first found in places such as South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

A total of 32% indicated they plan to receive the vaccination, while another 32% indicated they have received the vaccine. A total of 26% indicated they did not plan to receive the vaccination, while 10% were unsure or didn’t indicate an opinion.

More than half, or 54%, indicated they received the seasonal flu vaccine last year. However, among the 491 respondents who had not received the flu vaccine, only 16% indicated that they would, while 72% said they would not.

Similarly, a poll conducted among 1,400 residents by Elon University from March 30 to April 2 showed 63% of adults have been vaccinated or plan to. Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science, said the growth appears to be driven by a shift within the population by those who had previously been unsure about receiving the vaccine.

“Vaccine support has increased dramatically since we started tracking attitudes in October 2020,” Husser said. “At that time, only 33% of North Carolina residents said ‘yes’ when asked about their vaccine plans. Now, 63% have either already taken a vaccine or plan to take it when they can.”

Meanwhile, the share of North Carolinians who indicated they wouldn’t receive the vaccine, which is around 20%, has remained relatively consistent with October polling results, Husser said, meaning there is continuing doubt about reaching some herd immunity goals throughout all regions of the state.

Of those who have been vaccinated, 93% indicated they were glad they got it, while more than 80% said the experience was easy, and two-thirds indicating they experienced no negative side effects from the vaccination. Nearly 70% who did experience negative side effects say it was no more than a “minor disruption.”

For those unsure or against taking the vaccine, side effects appeared to be the primary concern, with nearly 59% indicating they’re worried to some degree about the resulting side effects.

North Carolina residents appear to be generally optimistic about the future, Husser said, as 33% of respondents said life would be “a lot better than it has been in the last year” by July 4. Even more, at 37%, said it will be “a little better,” while 22% indicated it will be about the same as it is now. Only 8% indicated it will be “back to the way it was before the pandemic” by Independence Day.

Elon University’s poll was conducted in partnership with The Charlotte Observer, The Durham Herald-Sun and The Raleigh News & Observer.

Gov. Cooper announces formation of Juvenile Sentence Review Board

Gov. Roy Cooper last week announced the creation of a North Carolina Juvenile Sentencing Review Board from Executive Order 208.

The order establishes a four-person advisory board to review certain sentences imposed on North Carolinians who were tried and sentenced in adult criminal court for offenses committed before turning 18 years old. The review board will make recommendations to Cooper regarding clemency and commutation of such sentences.

“Developments in science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds,” Cooper said. “For those who have taken significant steps to reform and rehabilitate themselves, this process can provide a meaningful opportunity for release and a life outside of prison.”

The review board comes from a recommendation from the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, which found that the group of people most impacted by this order are disproportionately Black.

The board will include former District Court Judge and Assistant District Attorney Rep. Marcia Morey as chair; civil rights activist and former House member Henry McKinley “Mickey” Michaux Jr.; former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Thomas Walker; and former U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Allyson Duncan.

Before making any recommendations, the board is tasked with conducting a thorough and individualized revised based on criteria outlined in the order, which includes consideration of the petition, the prison record, factors suggesting developmental immaturity, the petitioner’s mental health at the time of the crime, the degree of risk the petitioner proposes to society, whether the petitioner’s race unduly influenced the trial or sentencing and input from the victim and victim’s family.

The review is available to qualifying individuals who have served at least 20 years of their sentence, or at least 15 years in certain instances of consecutive or “stacked” sentences. The executive order requires that the Department of Public Safety and the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission make such records available within 30 days of such request.

In 2017, Cooper signed into law Senate Bill 445, which reduced the wait time for criminal record expungement for first-time, nonviolent offenders. That same year, North Carolina enacted Raise the Age legislation, which allows non-violent offenders younger than 18 to be accommodated in juvenile courts rather than being tried as adults. Previously, the age minimum was set at 16. Passing the legislation allows young offenders to “make amends and move on to pursue academic and professional opportunities with fewer setbacks from criminal records,” Cooper said in 2017.

The order remains in effect until Dec. 31, 2024, unless repealed, replaced or rescinded by another executive order.

HPU poll shows presidential approval rate at 48%, governor approval rate at 53% in North Carolina

A High Point University poll conducted from March 19 to April 1 shows nearly half of North Carolinians gave President Joe Biden an approval rating of 48%, while more than half seem to approve of Gov. Roy Cooper.

A little more than one-third, or 39%, responded that they disapproved of Biden, while 33% indicated they disapproved of Cooper. More than half, at 54%, indicated that the country is “off on the wrong track.” About 34% of those same residents said the country is headed in the right direction, while 12% didn’t offer an opinion either way.

The responses stem from a sample of all North Carolina counties, with 805 online respondents and 136 who responded via landline or cellular phone.

“The most recent HPU Poll continues to show consistency in how North Carolinians feel about the job the president is doing,” said Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor. “The relative stability between our current poll and our February poll does not indicate any significant shift in how the state is feeling.”

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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