HSPA will survey Hoosiers on public notice advertising


The HSPA Board of Directors has secured the services of American Opinion Research to conduct a survey of Hoosier attitudes toward public notice advertising.

The move was prompted by the high number of bills introduced during the past two legislative sessions that attack the concept of publication of public notices as the best way to inform Hoosiers what state and local government units are doing or contemplating.

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.

American Opinion Research, or AOR, will conduct 15-minute interviews with 1,000 Hoosiers through the Internet, cell phones and landline phones to reflect the diversity of how people communicate.

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 agreed to work with HSPA on the poll.

Head also asked HSPA to keep State Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, appraised of the survey. Torr authored legislation this year that would have given free publications the same status as paid-circulation newspapers for running public notice advertising.

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.

More than two-thirds of Hoosiers surveyed recalled seeing public notices in a newspaper.

Of those, more than seven in 10 said they read the notice. Of those who read public notices, seven in 10 (more than 1.4 million adults) read them sometimes, often or always.

When asked what impact moving public notices from newspapers to the Internet would have, 62 percent reported they would read public notices less often or much less often.

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.