Press Release 

Fall, 1999 CSLI Survey

Survey Finds Public Optimistic About Local Economy

The public was over four times as likely to think that the local economy had "gotten better" over the last year (43%) compared to the percentage saying it had "gotten worse" (10%) according to a poll conducted by Anne Arundel Community College's Center for the Study of Local Issues. In addition, the poll showed the public more than twice as likely to say that the "overall quality of life in the County" had "gotten better" (34%) compared to "gotten worse" (14%). The remainder felt that the conditions had stayed "about the same."

These positive results were echoed by the percentage of residents saying the County was going the "right direction" (54%), which was twice the percentage of those saying the "wrong direction" (27%, 19% no answer or unsure).

Taken October 11-14, the poll showed that respondents were least impressed by the County's ability to reduce traffic congestion, with nearly five times as many (70%) saying that the situation had gotten worse over the last year compared to those saying it had gotten better (15%). (See Table 2).

The poll also reviewed a series of other local issues including "the most important problem facing the residents of Anne Arundel County," taxes, commercial development, elected school boards, local residents' buying habits and preference for locally owned stores rather than larger chains as well as the public's propensity for going online.

The Most Important Problem

Each semester, the CSLI poll starts off with the question "what do you think is the most important problem facing the residents of Anne Arundel County at the present time?"

While recent polls had shown a tendency for crime to drop and education to rise, this poll found that education has dropped since the last poll (from 24% to 18%) with a corresponding rise in crime (from 12% to 19%). Growth remained the most frequently cited problem although it too dropped somewhat in importance (from 31% to 27%). (Crime="crime" and "drugs;" Growth="growth" and "traffic/transportation").

Taxes were not a frequently cited problem, staying in the single digits (7%). Other respondents pointed to issues such as the environment (5%), the economy (3%), and miscellaneous "other" problems (7%). A significant percentage (16%) could not think of any "most important problem."

The Center's director, Dan Nataf, commented that "the focus on education during the elections in November 1998 was apparently a spike in the public's attention rather than a deep seated change in relative importance."

Table 1: Most important problem facing the residents of Anne Arundel County at the present time (Percentage citing this problem)

Problem

Fall, ‘95

Spring, ‘96

Fall, ‘96

Spring ‘97

Fall, ‘97

Spring ‘98

Fall ‘98

Spring ‘99

Fall '99

Crime

26

31

23

28

25

26

19

12

19

Growth

18

18

25

24

31

28

26

31

27

Education

14

21

20

20

18

17

28

24

18

Taxes

13

8

14

12

12

7

5

10

7

Taxes

The poll found that respondents remained hostile to changes in the tax picture. Most (50%) believed that the County's tax cap did not hurt the ability of the County to provide services to its citizens, while only 30 percent felt that the tax cap had affected services (20% unsure or no answer). Only 33% would support an increase in taxes to generate additional revenue for the County.

In keeping with results previously reported by the Center, public opinion was not a very useful guide to budgetary trade-offs. When asked whether increasing taxes or lowering the level of services would be preferable "if the County needed additional funds to maintain services," the preferred answer was "neither." While a majority (56%) opposed increasing taxes, an even larger majority (72%) opposed any lowering of the level of services.

Center director Nataf remarked that "CSLI polls have shown time and time again that the public does not perceive a natural trade-off between accepting budgetary limits through opposition to tax increases, and an inevitable impact upon the level of services. Apparently, the belief is that the County can continue to provide or even enhance services without going to the taxpayers for more money."

Problems in the County: Getting better, staying the same, or getting worse

In keeping with opposition to tax increases, the poll found that respondents were more inclined to think that County efforts to "keeping taxes low" were not completely effective (15% saying "getting better," 26% saying "getting worse"). A majority seemed relatively satisfied with the tax "status quo" as 59 percent thought that County efforts had "stayed about the same" over the last year.

Table 2 shows the various items ranked according to their mean coded score, a method for ensuring fair ranking. The importance of growth related problems, as mentioned previously when discussing the "most important problem" was clearly demonstrated by the tendency for respondents to claim the least improvement for items such as "planning growth and development" and "reducing traffic congestion."

The imbalance between growth and the County's infrastructure was also highlighted by the low "getting better" score for "reducing the backlog in school maintenance and repair," although that item had a large number of missing cases suggesting that this item was not particularly clear to respondents.

These negative feelings about growth would seem likely to foreshadow a dismal appraisal of the state of the environment. However, "improving the environment" was a relative bright spot, with a larger percentage saying "gotten better" (35%) than "gotten worse" (26%). However this item showed significant polarization, as less than a majority (39%) thought the situation had "stayed about the same."

While respondents felt a series of problems were more likely to have "gotten worse" than "gotten better" such as "improving ethics," "improving government efficiency," "academic performance" and "keeping taxes low," these were not among the most serious problems. All except "academic performance" exhibited around a ten percent point imbalance favoring "gotten worse" over "gotten better," but a majority said "stayed about the same." The "academic performance" item showed a more polarized public, with only about a third saying "stayed the same" and the remainder thinking it got better (27%) or worse (37%).

Table 2: Have Problems Gotten Better, Stayed the Same or Gotten Worse (in percentage, ranked by mean response)

I am going to read you a list of problems facing the County. Please tell me how well you think the County has dealt with these problems over the last year. Has the problem gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse?

Problem

Gotten better

Stayed about the same

Gotten worse

Cases

Improving the local economy

43

46

10

412

Improving the overall quality of life in our County

34

52

14

405

Controlling crime

30

54

16

416

Improving the environment

35

39

26

398

Reducing poverty and homelessness

18

58

24

334

Improving ethics in government

20

50

30

368

Improving the efficiency of local government

18

54

28

380

Improving the academic performance of our

children

27

34

39

367

Keeping taxes low

15

59

26

406

Planning growth and development

25

30

45

393

Reducing the backlog in school maintenance and

repair

24

26

51

315

Reducing traffic congestion

15

16

70

424

Commercial Development

The prospect of additional commercial developments helping the County offer services and broaden its tax base was embraced by those polled. When asked "do you think that commercial developments like Arundel Mills will be a positive or a negative factor for Anne Arundel County in the coming years," over half (59%) responded that it was a positive factor, while only half as many viewed such developments as negative for the County (26%, 15% unsure or no answer). A plurality also favored "broadening the tax base by increasing commercial development" (48%) compared to those opposing (39%) or unsure/no answer (13%).

School Board

The public clearly supported the County Council in its efforts to put an elected school board on the political agenda, as 73 percent supported an elected school board, compared to only 11 percent opposing (16% unsure or no answer).

These results contrast with findings from the spring 1999 CSLI survey. At that time, residents were presented with six different school board selection alternatives, including elected school boards. While the latter was the most favored of the various alternatives, the difference was small, with less than a majority favoring elected school boards (49% favoring, 36% opposing, 14% unsure/no answer).

Nataf suggested that "this time the question was couched in terms of an action by the County Council. Perhaps the public felt that the Council provided leadership on this confusing issue. Alternatively, the choice presented in this survey was simpler - support or oppose an elected school board - and the public wasn't forced to consider other choices."

Public's Buying Habits

This survey sought to better understand the residents' buying habits by asking them where they would be most likely to purchase various types of goods and services: within the County; outside the County; mail order or TV; or the Internet. (See Table 3 for a complete list)

In nearly all cases, respondents said that they purchased goods and services from within County locations, with groceries (97%) and major appliances (91%) leading the way. Also relatively high "within County" purchases included clothes (84%) and dining/entertainment (82%).

The least likely "within County" purchase was travel services (46%) with residents saying that they shopped out of the County (21%) or the Internet (25%) for such services. Of the other items listed, the least frequently obtained within the County were cars (70%) and furniture (74%). The only other item to hold any attraction for online purchasers was computer equipment (9% buying online).

Nataf said "the ability or necessity to shop locally for groceries is clear, perhaps pointing to the abundance of local markets, the imperative of quickly transporting frozen items, and a tendency to make last minute purchasing decisions close to home. Some of the other findings were not as clear, such as the strong probability of purchasing major appliances within the County, but a weaker tendency to purchase automobiles and furniture here."

Table 3: Public's Purchase of Items by Location, Ranked by Frequency of Within County Purchasing (in percent)

Good/service

Within County Location

Out of County Location

Mail Catalog or TV

Internet

Other

Cases

Groceries

97

4

0

0

0

427

Major appliances such as washing machine or television

91

8

1

0

1

420

Clothes

84

9

5

0

1

423

Dining or entertainment

82

17

0

0

1

416

Legal services

79

19

0

1

2

388

Educational services such as private schools

77

18

0

1

4

335

Tax or Accounting services

75

21

0

1

3

399

Furniture

74

24

1

1

1

410

Automobile

70

26

0

2

2

407

Computer equipment

68

14

6

9

2

395

Travel services like airline tickets or hotel reservations

46

21

2

25

5

385

 

Overall, the public seemed relatively satisfied with "the availability of goods and services at a reasonable price in Anne Arundel County," with 17 percent saying the availability was excellent, 56 percent saying good, and only 27 saying fair or poor.

The survey focused another related section on residents' preference for locally owned stores over larger chains. One-third of the sample said that they did "place special importance on shopping at locally-owned stores rather than larger chains." When presented with a list of possible reasons to explain this inclination, three reasons were most frequently cited: "helps support the community" (85%), "greater convenience" (76%), and "better service" (73%).

Internet Access

The CSLI poll asked respondents whether they "currently have an Internet account that you can use from your home." Well over half (58%) of the sample had such an account. (See Table 4 for details).

Several factors determined the likelihood that respondents would have an Internet account. Age was statistically related, with only 25 percent of those 60 or over having an account, compared to 69 percent of those between 45 and 59 years of age. Education was also statistically related, with only 35 percent of those having only a high school degree possessing an Internet account, compared to 79 percent of those with post graduate work. Nataf pointed out that "just having any college education boosted considerably the chances of a resident having an account from 35 percent to 58 percent, which shows the impact of technology on higher education and students."

Income was also an important variable, as nearly 90 percent (89%) of those with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 had Internet accounts, while only 40 percent of those with incomes between $30,000 and $50,000. For those with incomes below $30,000, the percentage with accounts was only 23 percent.

Gender played some role in differentiating online access.  Men were more likely (63%) than women (54%) to have an Internet account accessible from their homes.

Overall, the age group between 45 and 59 was the best educated and wealthiest, accounting for their high propensity to have Internet accounts. By contrast, those 60 or over were the least educated and poorest, and were consequently the least likely to have Internet accounts. Nataf mentioned that "the importance of education and income could lead to a deep social cleavage between the technological haves and have-nots. At this time, poor seniors seem to be the most left out of the online world."

Table 4: Demographic Variables and Internet Access from Home (in percent)

Variable

Internet Access

Cases

Yes

No

Age

58

42

418

18-29

54

46

52

30-44

65

35

147

45-59

69

32

146

60 or more

25

75

73

Education

58

42

415

No H.S. degree

9

91

11

H.S. degree

35

65

82

Some college

58

42

160

Bachelor's degree

68

32

94

Post graduate work

79

21

68

Income

59

41

355

Under $30k

23

77

53

$30-$50k

40

60

94

$50-$75k

70

30

90

$75-$100k

89

12

61

Over $100k

75

25

57

Gender

58

42

409

Male

63

37

172

Female

54

46

237

 

The survey was conducted by the Center for the Study of Local Issues during the week of October 11-14, 1999. A total of 446 County residents were polled, with a margin of error of approximately five percent. The error for subgroups such as age groups is greater. Residents were randomly selected from a database of listed Anne Arundel County households, and were asked whether they were residing at their principal residence and were at least 18 years of age. Anne Arundel Community College students were trained to perform all interviews with residents.

For additional information, contact Dan Nataf, Director, Center for the Study of Local Issues (410) 541-2733.

 

CSLI FALL 1999 QUESTIONNAIRE

1.0 What do you think is the most important problem facing the residents of Anne Arundel County at the present time?

DON'T READ THE LIST BELOW - Let the respondent volunteer an answer, check off the box that comes closest to it or write it in "Other answer."

(In percent)

Problem

Check One

Crime

12

Drugs (illegal drugs, use, sale)

7

Growth/overpopulation-too much development

17

Traffic congestion/problems

10

Education, problems with schools

18

Taxes – too high

7

Inefficient government, wasteful spending

1

Corruption in government/ politicians are bad

0

Environment (air, water pollution, save Bay)

5

Economy – no jobs, high cost of living, businesses closing

3

Other answer:___________________________________

7

Unsure/No Answer

16

2.0 Overall, would you say that the County is headed in the right direction or in the wrong direction?

54% Right direction

27% Wrong direction

19% Unsure or don’t know

2.1 Regarding the County’s property tax cap, do you think the tax cap hurts the ability of the County to provide high quality services to its citizens?

30% Yes 50% No 20% Don’t Know, No Answer

2.2 If the County needed additional funds to maintain services, would you support any of the following? (In percent)

Approach

Support

Oppose

Unsure/NA

2.3 Increasing taxes

33%

56%

12%

2.4 Lowering the level of services

15

72

12

2.5 Broadening the tax base by increasing commercial development

48

39

13

3.0 I am going to read you a list of problems facing the County. Please tell me how well you think the County has dealt with these problems over the last year. Has the problem gotten better, stayed about the same, or gotten worse? (In percent)

Problem

Gotten better

Stayed about the same

Gotten worse

Cases

3.1 Controlling crime

30%

54%

16%

416

3.2 Improving the local economy

43

46

10

412

3.3 Reducing poverty and homelessness

18

58

24

334

3.4 Reducing traffic congestion

15

16

70

424

3.5 Planning growth and development

25

30

45

393

3.6 Improving the environment

35

39

26

398

3.7 Improving ethics in government

20

50

30

368

3.8 Keeping taxes low

15

59

26

406

3.9 Improving the efficiency of local government

18

54

28

380

3.10 Reducing the backlog in school maintenance and repair

24

26

51

315

3.11 Improving the academic performance of our

children

27

34

39

367

3.12 Improving the overall quality of life in our County

34

52

14

405

We would like your opinion on a set of issues affecting Anne Arundel County.

4.0 The construction of Arundel Mills, a large new mall near the intersection of Routes 100 and 295 has begun. On balance, do you think that commercial developments like Arundel Mills will be a positive or a negative factor for Anne Arundel County in the coming years?

59% Positive

26% Negative

15% Don't know or unsure

4.1 This year, the County Council passed a resolution supporting the study of the replacement of the current convention system of selecting school board members with an elected school board. Do you support or oppose an elected school board?

73% Support

11% Oppose

16% Don't know or unsure

5.0 Next, we are interested in better understanding how Anne Arundel residents affect the local economy through their buying habits. When I read you a list of shopping activities, please indicate where you are most likely to purchase the following goods and services. (In percent)

Good/service

Within County Location

Out of County Location

Mail Catalog or TV

Internet

Other

Cases

5.1 Clothes

84

9

5

0

1

423

5.2 Groceries

97

4

0

0

0

427

5.3 Furniture

74

24

1

1

1

410

5.4 Major appliances such as washing machine or television

91

8

1

0

1

420

5.5 Computer equipment

68

14

6

9

2

395

5.6 Automobile

70

26

0

2

2

407

5.7 Travel services like airline tickets or hotel reservations

46

21

2

25

5

385

5.8 Legal services

79

19

0

1

2

388

5.9 Educational services such as

private schools

77

18

0

1

4

335

5.10 Tax or Accounting services

75

21

0

1

3

399

5.11 Dining or entertainment

82

17

0

0

1

416

6.0 Generally how would you rate the availability of goods and services at a reasonable price in Anne Arundel County: excellent, good, fair or poor.

17% Excellent

56% Good

24% Fair

3% Poor

422 Cases

6.1 When considering where to shop, do you place any special importance on shopping at locally owned stores rather than larger chains?

33% Yes

67% No go to next page

Cases = 403

6.2 If yes, to what extent are any of the following reasons why you place special importance on shopping at locally owned stores:

Reason

Applies

Does not apply

Cases

6.3 Better service

73%

27%

130

6.4 Helps support the community

85

13

131

6.5 Prices are lower

29

71

130

6.6 Greater convenience

76

24

130

6.7 Don't like shopping at large chain stores

39

61

128

DEMOGRAPHICS

We are almost done. The last few questions will help us to better understand your responses.

  1. Do you currently have an Internet account that you use from your home?

58% Yes 42% No N=420

itical party are you affiliated?

43% Democratic 11% None

34% Republican 1% Other

10% Independent N=404

10.2 Did you vote in last year's County Executive election between John Gary and Janet Owens or did you not vote?

62% Yes, voted

38% No, didn't vote

N=413

  1. Which of the following best describes your political beliefs: Liberal, Moderate or Conservative?

17% Liberal

48% Moderate

35% Conservative

N=394

 

12.0 I am going to read some categories of age classifications. Please stop me when I reach the category in which your age falls.

12% 18 to 29

35% 30 to 44

35% 45 to 59

18% 60 or more

N=420

13.0 I am going to read some categories relating to education. Please stop me when I reach the category in which the highest level of your formal education falls.

3% less than a high school degree

20% a high school degree

38% some college or a two-year degree

23% completed college with a bachelor’s degree

16% post graduate work

N=417

14.0 I am going to read some categories relating to income. Please stop me when I reach the category in which your household income falls.

15% Less than $30,000

26% $30,000 to $50,000

26% $50,000 to $75,000

17% $75,000-$100,000

16% Over $100,000

N=357

15.0 Regarding race, how would you describe yourself?

6% Black

88% White

2% Hispanic

2% Asian

3% Other racial background

N=403

16.0 What is your current marital status?

22% Single 62% Married 1% Separated 9% Divorced 7% Widowed 0% Other N=416

  1. How many children do you have in private or public schools?
  2. Number of children

    Private %

    Public %

    0

    90

    66

    1

    6

    15

    2

    3

    12

    3

    1

    4

    4

    1

    2

    5

    0

    1

     

    17.0 Gender:

    42% Male 58% Female N=429

  3. Zip code:

Zip

Cases

Percent

20711

7

1.6

20714

1

0.2

20724

9

2.1

20733

2

0.5

20754

2

0.5

20755

9

2.1

20758

1

0.2

20764

3

0.7

20765

1

0.2

20776

3

0.7

20778

2

0.5

21012

27

6.2

21032

14

3.2

21035

9

2.1

21037

16

3.7

21054

6

1.4

21056

1

0.2

21060

28

6.4

21061

43

9.9

21076

5

1.1

21090

10

2.3

21106

1

0.2

21108

9

2.1

21113

11

2.5

21114

23

5.3

21122

39

8.9

21140

1

0.2

21144

20

4.6

21146

36

8.3

21225

9

2.1

21226

2

0.5

21401

57

13.1

21403

28

6.4

21506

1

0.2

.

10

Missing

-------

-------

Total

446

100