Hoosiers support public notice ads, and they want to see them in their local newspapers.
That was the clear message found in the results of a recent American Opinion Research survey of Hoosier attitudes on the publication of public notices.
When asked if they support the publication of public notices as a way to inform the public of government actions, 85 percent of respondents said yes.
That’s a greater percentage than those who said they have read or seen public notice advertising in a newspaper (61 percent).
“That indicates that even people who don’t read notices regularly still support the concept because they trust their neighbor or co-worker will see a notice of interest and let them know about it,” said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association.
Key encourages publishers to discuss results of the survey with local legislators, particularly those who believe government website posting is the future of “transparency.”
“It’s not a future envisioned by most Hoosiers,” he said.
The HSPA board of directors commissioned the survey from Princeton, N.J.-based American Opinion Research, which surveyed 1,000 Hoosiers about public notices, newspaper readership and sources of election information.
Key recruited four state legislators to review the questions to be asked in the survey to avoid any perceived bias in the wording. State Reps. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City; and
Jerry Torr, R-Carmel; and State Sens. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek; and Randy Head, R-Logansport, all participated.
Mahan suggested the following question to see if the taxpayer cost of publishing public notices would dissolve support for them:
When government units publish legal and public notices, they must pay for the publication with taxpayer dollars. While at a rate set by the state legislature that is often lower than a newspaper’s regular rates, it still may cost a public agency several thousand dollars a year. Knowing this, do you believe government units should be required to publish these notices?
Yes was the response from 64 percent of respondents.
Sixty-nine percent of Hoosiers who participated in the survey by phone, both landline and cell, answered yes to the above question. Those answering online said yes 56 percent of the time.
Of the 61 percent of adult Hoosiers who have seen public notices in newspapers, an overwhelming 83 percent said they have read them. That’s 51 percent of all adult Hoosiers, or roughly 2.5 million people.
Of Hoosiers familiar with public notices, 38 percent said they preferred seeing them in a printed newspaper. That number grows to 49 percent if you add newspaper websites as a preferred source.
Only 25 percent of the respondents picked government websites as their preferred source for public notices.
Newspaper preference for the location of public notices also was clear when Hoosiers were asked whether they would read public notices more often or less often if they were moved from printed newspapers to government websites. Answering “much less often” or “less often” were 46 percent of adult Hoosiers. Only 15 percent answered “much more often” or “more often.”
The difference was even greater among adults who say they read public notices: 54 percent said they would read them less often online, and 12 percent said more often.
In the 18-34 age group, 37 percent said they would read notices less often if posted on government websites, compared to 23 percent who said more often.
HSPA has shared the survey results with the Indiana legislature’s top leaders.
“The survey confirms the value of publication of public notices,” Key said. “Hoosiers want and expect public notices to be placed in their hands through a local newspaper. They don’t want to have to guess when they should get online and search for this important information.”