This just in: Edwards is unpopular, poll finds

October 20, 2009 

John Edwards' approval rating among Americans has fallen 27 points, the steepest drop Gallup has measured since 1992.

In January 2008, 48 percent of people polled by Gallup approved of Edwards. Twenty-two months and one big sex scandal later, Edwards' approval was 21 percent.

Edwards' decline puts him atop the list of celebrities who have, mostly because of personal or professional troubles, seen big drops in public approval, according to Gallup. Edwards' peers include Sammy Sosa (24-point drop after a bat-doctoring scandal), Tom Cruise (23-point drop after lots of bad PR) and Martha Stewart (16-point drop after an insider trading scandal).

The Gallup survey of 1,013 Americans was conducted Oct. 1-4 and had a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points.

Pension fund under review

State Treasurer Janet Cowell announced the creation of a new, 11-member commission to make recommendations for sustaining and strengthening the state pension fund.

The commission, whose members have not been named, will craft proposals for, among other needs: providing adequate retirement income, managing investments and their risks, and attracting and retaining the work force that state and local governments need.

Cowell, who oversees the state pension fund, made the announcement during a pre-retirement planning and work force symposium at N.C. State University on Friday. She said the economic crisis provides an opportunity to design a retirement system for the state's future work force.

"Hopefully, North Carolina can be a model for a how a public plan can evolve through these times and still have a strong, secure, and safe retirement for the people who lead a life of public service," Cowell said in a prepared statement.

Many wary of 'fat' penalty

A national survey found that only 30 percent of Americans support forcing overweight government workers to pay more for health insurance.

The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of 1,000 adults nationwide conducted Oct. 11-12 found that 63 percent opposed North Carolina's plan to charge overweight employees more for the state employee's health plan. The survey found 30 percent supported the plan, and 7 percent were unsure.

The survey didn't provide any specifics, such as only those with extraordinarily high body mass indexes would be charged more, so a grain of salt may be in order with the survey results.

The survey also asked whether Americans favored the state's plan to charge smokers more for insurance. Half of the respondents favored the idea, while 43 percent were opposed; 8 percent were unsure. The survey had a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points.

Reform may touch alcohol

The special commission appointed to help reform how the state spends money is considering stepping into the prickly issue of changing the state's system for selling alcoholic beverages.

Members of the Budget Reform & Accountability Commission heard presentations this month on strengthening state control over the current system of ABC stores, which are run by local governments, or making a more sweeping change and going to either a completely state-run system or to a system of private stores.

Several commission members questioned the broader changes that would remove local governments from liquor stores, because that would eliminate about $60 million that localities receive from sales.

There was less reaction to the idea of reforming the current system by, among other steps, strengthening the state ABC Commission's ability to control local stores, such as requiring mergers of unprofitable stores and setting performance standards for stores.

The budget commission will vote at a future meeting whether to take on ABC reform.

By staff writers Benjamin Niolet and Mark Johnson or 919-829-4521

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