Surveys Show Public’s Desire for Transparency

Two important surveys released in conjunction with Sunshine Week illustrate the public’s desire for a more open government.

The first, a Sunshine Week survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, found that 74 percent of those polled view the federal government as very or somewhat secretive, up from 62 percent of those surveyed in 2006. Almost all of those interviewed, 92 percent, said open government is important to them in assessing candidates for state offices such as governor or attorney general.

The second survey is summarized in a report released today by OMB Watch, Top Open Government Questions for Candidates. The report names the top five open government questions that Americans would like candidates for federal office to answer before the November elections, based on a survey of more than 2,000 people. The questions can be used by voter groups, the media, and the general public to query candidates on openness and secrecy.

The top five open government questions are:

1) Manipulation of Facts
Concerns have been raised about possible manipulation of information produced by agencies and the influence of the White House over agency decisions. Do you support disclosure of all communications between the White House (including the Office of Management and Budget and other executive offices) and agencies regarding administrative decision-making and information disclosure?

2) Executive Privilege
What do you believe are the appropriate limits of executive privilege in the disclosure of information to Congress and the public?

3) Whistleblowers
Under the Sarbanes-Oxley law, only corporate whistleblowers revealing financial abuses are protected. In order to strengthen accountability against corporate crimes, would you support pending legislation that expands whistleblower protection rights to private sector workers who report violations of any federal public health and safety laws?

4) Presidential Records
Executive Order 13233 limits access to presidential records under the Presidential Records Act by giving former presidents the power to effectively veto the release of their records. Do you commit to reversing Executive Order 13233 to restore public access to presidential records after twelve years?

5) Health, Safety & Environment
Given the importance of health and safety information, how would you ensure that the public has easy access to understandable information about the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the products they use?

[Posted by Emily Feldman]

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