American Opinion Research recently started conducting a survey of Hoosier attitudes toward public notice advertising.

Pollsters will conduct 15-minute interviews with 1,000 Hoosiers via phone and the Internet.

HSPA commissioned the study because of bills introduced during the past two legislative sessions that attack public notices, also known as legals.

American Opinion Research of Princeton, N.J., also conducted a statewide newspaper readership survey for HSPA in 2004. That poll included questions about public notice advertising as well.

HSPA Executive Director and General Counsel Steve Key has reached out to three state legislative committee chairmen who have been involved with recent public notice advertising legislation to review the questions that will be asked.

State Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, chairman of the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee; State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee; and State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, chairman of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee; have all worked with HSPA on the poll questions.

Key said the lawmakers’ input is crucial to show legislative leadership that the survey accurately reflects the views of Hoosiers. HSPA wants to avoid any perception of bias in the poll.

“The numbers must speak for themselves,” Key said. “Having said that, I’m confident that the results in Indiana will mirror surveys conducted by other press associations in recent years.”

Repeatedly, citizens have expressed their desire that public notices be printed in their local newspapers.

They’ve said the taxpayer cost to publish the notices is a worthwhile expenditure. They’ve said they would be less likely to see these notices if the legislature moved them to government websites.

That matches the results of the 2004 survey in Indiana by AOR. The majority of Hoosiers (73 percent) said local and state government units should be required to publish public notice advertising regularly in newspapers.

During the past two legislative sessions, HSPA has increasingly heard comments from legislators that the Internet makes the notices available to everyone, not just newspaper readers.

This attitude spawned 10 bills seeking to eliminate all or some public notice requirements or moving them from newspapers to the Internet or to free publications.

The OAR survey, scheduled for completion by the fall, should counter legislators’ misconceptions with facts – numbers that HSPA believes will again show that Hoosiers believe public notices should be required to be placed in newspapers.