The Center for the Study of Local Issues (CSLI) at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) recently conducted a survey focusing on Anne Arundel County residents’ views concerning the following issues.
• Economic conditions and experiences
• Consumer confidence
• Gambling: the addition of a new site and permitting table games at all sites
• Satisfaction with some county agencies
• Issues including same-sex marriage, proposed increases in the “flush tax,” shifting contributions to the teachers’ pension funds from the state to local governments, maintaining consistent funding for schools
• Possible problems affecting the quality of life in Anne Arundel County — pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, over-dependency on government employment, budget constraints on local government, changes to the quality of public schools and sea-level rise
• Presidential job approval and trust in political parties
The CSLI conducts surveys of Anne Arundel County residents each March and October, offering students a valuable learning experience while providing the county community with public opinion findings.
Summary of Findings
• Most important problem facing county residents: 30% cited the economy, an 18-point drop since October 2011.
• Perceptions of the economy: 51% viewed the county’s economy as excellent or good — a three percentage point rise from October; 38% said the same for Maryland’s economy (up 5 points); and 13% favorably rated the national economy, up 4 points.
• Right direction/wrong direction: There was a drop since the October 2011 survey in the percentage of those saying that the county was moving in the right direction (from 47 to 43%) along with a marked increase in those saying “wrong” direction (from 32 to 41%).
• Economic conditions experienced by individuals: Various measures have been tracked since March 2008 — the major changes for spring 2012 were a decrease among those saying that they had “significant losses in your stock or retirement accounts” (-16 percentage points) and an increase in the percentage saying that they had received an increase in income recently, rising 9 points from 26 to 35%. Fewer were delaying major purchases or facing the possibility of unemployment. Indicators tracking inflation were either flat or showed some rise.
• Consumer confidence: Three of the four indicators showed improvement, with larger percentages than last fall saying that economic growth, unemployment and personal financial situation would improve during the next 12 months. Only inflationary expectations worsened slightly.
• Expansion of gambling through the addition of another site and table games: The public was closely divided about whether adding a new site has more costs than benefits — 42% agreed, 43% disagreed — but found fewer costs regarding the addition of table games, as 34% agreed that there were more costs than benefits while 48% disagreed.
• County agencies and units level of satisfaction: The percentage saying “very satisfied” with the unit was as follows: Fire Department, 87%; Police Department, 67%; public libraries, 68%; public schools, 41%; permit application center, 18/32% (with/without missing answers); Department of Aging, 30/59%; Health Department, 36/59%.
• Various state and local issues: The percentage supporting various policies were as follows: same-sex marriage, 46%; “flush tax” doubling, 32%; increasing state funding for affordable rental housing, 37%; shifting pension fund contributions for teachers from the state to the counties, 22%; strictly enforcing the requirement that local schools be funded at no less than last year’s levels, 65%.
• Possible problems affecting quality of life in Anne Arundel County: Respondents gave these “very serious” scores. Pollution of the Chesapeake Bay, 66%; budget constraints on local government, 43%; over-dependency on government employment, 43%; air pollution, 39%; changes in the quality of county schools, 39%; sea-level rise, 31%.
• Obama’s job approval: President Obama’s job approval went up five points to 42%. In a matchup with a hypothetical “Republican candidate” he was down by 3 points (38 to 41%).
• Which party do you trust to do a better job?: The percentage favoring Democrats was up 6 points from last spring (from 31 to 37%). The Republicans also went up from 30 to 34%. The percentage saying “neither” decreased to 21% from 32% last October.
• Methodology: The survey polled a random sample of 440 county residents who were at least 18 years old. It was conducted March 5–8, during evening hours. Phone numbers were derived from a database of listed landline numbers, as well as computer-
chosen, randomly assigned numbers. There was about a 4.6% statistical margin of error for the overall sample; the error rate was higher for subgroups, such as “Democrats.” The dataset was weighted by gender and political party to better represent the general population. College students were trained and used as telephone interviewers.
Dan Nataf is the director of Center for the Study of Local Issues at AACC. He can be contacted at 410-777-2733 and email@example.com. Results from this and previous surveys are available at www2.aacc.edu/csli.