RECENT FINDINGS

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Attitudes toward different gun laws

In our March 2018 survey, we asked people in state and local government about their own stances on different policies to address gun violence. Instituting mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases was the most popular measure, with 75% of respondents supporting it. On the other hand, some policies that have been recently discussed in the media face significant opposition. Notably, an individual limit on the number of firearms was opposed by 60% of respondents. Interested in learning more? Check out our recent report on gun control at the local level here.

Infographic on policymakers' stances on different policies to address gun violence.

Note: “Not sure/neutral” responses are omitted from the graphic, so numbers do not add to 100%

 
Budget Woes from Sea to Shining Sea

Local officials from across the U.S. answered the question, “Would you consider the budget a pressing issue in your local area?” While a majority of survey takers said “Yes” regardless of where they are from, a higher percentage of policymakers from the Northeast stated that they faced budget problems while those from the West fared relatively better. The data are from a March 2019 CivicPulse survey of 2,361 local officials, and you can read more about what policymakers think about the budget in this CivicPulse report.

Officials who considered the budget a pressing issue by U.S. region

 
What is acceptable political language?

In two separate surveys, American and Ukrainian policymakers shared their beliefs about whether political name-calling and threatening language would be acceptable to the public. In general, Ukrainian elites believed that their citizens would be more okay with this type of language. The U.S. survey was fielded by CivicPulse to 520 leaders in March 2019. The Ukraine survey was administered by the Kyiv Institutional Institute of Sociology (KIIS) to 165 civic activists and politicians across Ukraine in March and April 2019. Author: Thomas C. Zeitzoff, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs, American University.

“If a politician said the following about their political opponent... how often would the public find this acceptable?”
 
Local officials' trust in the news

Americans’ trust in the news has been declining for several decades, since at least the 1970s. According to Gallup data, only 45% of Americans have at least a fair amount of trust in the news media. At the same time, nearly a quarter (24%) say they don’t have any trust in the news. In CivicPulse’s March 2019 survey, we asked local elected officials about their trust in the news. 53% of the respondents indicated having at least a fair amount of trust in the news, and only 8% indicated no trust in the news at all, a considerably smaller proportion than among the general public. These results suggest that elected officials have higher levels of trust in the news than the general public. Author: Dominik A. Stecula, Postdoctoral Fellow, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania.

 
What is your most pressing issue?

CivicPulse recently asked survey respondents what they think the most pressing issue is facing the area they or their office serve(s). Over 875 elected officials and their staff shared their thoughts. Although each community is unique, there were a number of common themes that were on the minds of these officials. Budgetary concerns such as lack of revenue and funding for education or other public services were mentioned the most often, followed by challenges associated with population growth (e.g., cost of living, housing) and the need to stimulate economic growth and employment. Other common answers mentioned social issues (e.g., distrust, lack of leadership), infrastructure development, and public safety or concerns over drug use. These results suggest that, while the problems that local and state politicians must address are diverse and complex, the underlying challenges faced by different communities are often similar.

Graph showing what policymakers say is the most pressing issue facing the area they serve
 
Local Officials are optimistic about the U.S.

A 2019 report by Bright Line Watch showed that local officials consistently rated American Democracy more favorably than the mass public and campaign donors. The report notes: “They rate U.S. democratic performance as significantly higher than the public on 22 of 27 principles. These differences do not cluster around any clear theme, though we note that the largest gap we observe is on whether citizens are able to make their voices heard on important policy issues. Local officials overwhelmingly believe that citizen voices are heard (perhaps reflecting and projecting their personal experiences), whereas citizens themselves are less assured.” The survey of local officials was conducted by CivicPulse, the mass public survey was conducted by YouGov, and the survey of campaign donors was fielded by Bright Line Watch.

 
Attitudes toward the use of force

CivicPulse surveyed policymakers at the local and state level about their views regarding the use of military force for national security reasons. The results show that the partisan divide at the national level on this issue is mirrored at the sub-national level. Over 90% of Republican respondents expressed strong baseline support for the use of military force, whereas Independents and Democrats expressed significantly less support for the use of force (approximately 76% and 55%, respectively).

Graph showing the attitudes of policymakers at the local and state level regarding the use of military force for national security reasons.
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