Note: There are three parts to this press release. The first page is the text included below. The second part is the questionnaire with frequencies. The third part is the statistical output in a Word formatted document.
Press Release: October 27, 2000
Center for the Study of Local Issues
Change in Revenue Cap Would have Faced Uphill Struggle
Citizens opposed to the existing revenue cap would have had an uphill struggle trying to change the County Charter according to a survey conducted October 16-19, 2000 by the Center for the Study of Local Issues (CSLI) at Anne Arundel Community College. The survey found that nearly two thirds (65%) of those polled rejected a change in the Charter to allow County government to raise revenue from property taxes 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation whichever is greater rather than lower, as the Charter currently reads.
Several other issues were reviewed by the CSLI survey. The most important problem facing residents continues to be growth (30%), followed by education (20%) and crime (13%).
Those sampled said the county was heading in the right direction (55%) by more than a two-to-one margin over those saying the "wrong" direction (24%), a finding consistent with previous results.
Fewer than one-third of County residents claimed to have used light rail in the last six months.
Thirty-five percent of the respondents claimed to know that the County Council had started televising its hearing, although only 18 percent had tuned in.
The survey also assessed residents’ political/civic participation and awareness, finding out that e.g., 35 percent had used the Internet "to find out more about politics and candidates."
Internet use keeps rising an estimated five percent each six months according to CSLI polls. The most recent poll pegs over two-thirds of the sample (70%) as having an Internet account at home.
The political horserace between Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush showed Bush ahead 41 percent to Gore’s 32 percent among likely voters.
The fall 2000 survey probed citizens’ views about the revenue cap in several ways. They were asked whether they knew about the County Charter amendment limiting the increase in revenue to 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation whichever is lower. Slightly more respondents (44%) than last March (37%) affirmed that they "knew about this County revenue cap." A nearly identical percentage in both polls (52% in fall, 54% in March) rejected the idea that "the County’s ability to provide services has declined due to the revenue cap," with only 25 percent agreeing in the latest poll that services had been impaired.
When told that a citizens group "recently tried to place a measure on the November ballot which would have allowed County government to raise revenue from property taxes 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is greater," 65 percent said they would have voted against such a measure, and only 19 percent favored it (15% unsure).
This question was followed up by an open-ended question asking "what is the major reason you would vote for or against this measure?" Table 1 shows that a general antipathy towards new taxes topped the list of "con" reasons, while a sense that the "County needs the money to pay for unmet needs" was the most frequently cited reason for supporting the measure.
As shown on table 2, age and years living in the County were important factors shaping residents’ awareness and opinion about the revenue cap. While the exact percentages in the March and October surveys vary somewhat, the general trend is clear: younger people and those in the County for the least amount of time were least likely to know about the tax cap. "These results are not surprising since the measure was voted upon in 1992," noted CSLI director Dan Nataf.
Similarly, younger people and those having lived in the County for the shortest time were much more likely to have "no opinion" about whether the cap has had an impact on services. The longer a person lived in the County, the greater the likelihood that they would not have perceived a decline, while the percentage of those saying that services have declined remained about static (a reduction in the percentage of "don’t knows" accounting for the difference).
A virtually identical percentage of residents with children in public schools (24%) perceived a decline in services as those without children in schools (25%).
Table 2: Awareness of Revenue Cap, Perceived Effect on County Ability to Provide Services and Age, Years in County (in percent)
The relationships are all statistically significant (p>.05).
Nataf remarked that "residents apparently feel that the level of services is adequate given the current level of taxation and are resistant to any improvements in services that potentially raise taxes. It seems likely that seniors in particular feel that they are on fixed incomes and can least afford an increase in property taxes."
There were statistically significant relationships between some political factors such as party registration, with Democrats perceiving the strongest decline in services (31%) compared to independents (29%) and Republicans (20%). Ideology was also a statistically significant variable as liberals (33%) were more likely than moderates (28%) or conservatives (19%) to perceive an impact on services.
Most Important Problem
CSLI polls regularly ask respondents "What do you think is the most important problem facing the residents of Anne Arundel County at the present time?" The latest poll shows little change since March 2000: Growth/transportation issues still are the primary concerns of residents (30%), followed by education (20%). Crime dropped from 20 percent in March to only 13 percent, while the environment (9%) displaced taxes (6%) as the fourth most cited problem.
Other issues constituted 13 percent of the total; another eleven
percent had no answer. Center director Nataf commented that "concern about
overpopulation, excessive development and traffic congestion have proven to be
the dominant issues for the public over the last three years. Whether
environmental concerns will endure as a major issue over time remains to be
seen." Table 3 shows the trend over time.
County: Headed in the Right or Wrong Direction?
CSLI polls have tracked the question "Overall, would you say that the County is headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?" since March 1999. The most recent poll showed little change other than a slight decrease in the percentage saying right direction (55% compared to 58% last March), with a small increase in the "don’t knows" from 17 percent in March to 20 percent in October (see table 4).
Table 4: Right/Wrong Direction Spring 1999 to Fall 2000
Use of Light Rail
The latest CSLI poll asked several questions related to the use of light rail. Thirty-one percent of the sample said that they had used light rail "at any time during the last six months." Very few used light rail to commute to work (7%); most used it to "attend a sports event" (17%) or for other entertainment purposes (19%). Only four percent used it "to visit friends or family." When asked whether they would "use light rail much more" if extended to the Glen Burnie Town Center or to Annapolis, a total of 36 percent said they would, while the plurality (45%) said that they would "continue relying on car or bus." Another eight percent were ambiguous, while eleven percent were unsure.
Regional variations to the current and potential use of light rail were shown by the mapping of responses by councilmanic districts. The northern districts (1,2,3) showed a much higher current use of light rail than other districts. Conversely, a much higher proportion of those in areas currently without light rail claimed that they would use it "much more" if it were available in Glen Burnie Town Center or Annapolis.
Nataf remarked that "further extensions of light rail in the northern part of the County would not result in a vast increase in use. The greatest potential for expanded use is in areas without light rail.
"What remains to be seen is how the southern areas would use the service: for travel to Baltimore or Washington, or for local travel within the County? Would the service be used largely for recreation as is now the case, or would peak level traffic be relieved by users taking light rail to work, as appears infrequently to be the case?"
The fall survey queried residents about the attentiveness to County Council proceedings. Over one-third (35%) of the sample affirmed that they knew that the Council had started televising its meetings; about one-half (51%) of those who knew about it had actually watched the Council (only 18% of the total sample, asked only of those receiving cable television in their homes (88%)). Less than one-tenth (9%) admitted having "personally attended a Council meeting anytime over the last two years." Overall, only three percent of the sample had both seen the Council on television and attended a Council meeting (21% had either watched or personally attended a meeting).
Those who said that they had either watched the Council on television and/or attended a Council meeting were then asked if observation of the Council had improved or worsened their impression of the Council, or made no difference. The sample was evenly split between improved (17%) and worsened (17%), while a plurality said it made no difference (50%, 16% unsure).
Watching the Council on television apparently made a better impression than attending Council meetings. Of those watching on television, 25 percent said their impression of the Council improved, while only eleven percent said it worsened (60% no difference, 4% unsure). Only 18 percent of those attending a Council meeting had an improved impression, compared to 23 percent with a worsened impression (50% no difference, 10% unsure).
Politic Awareness/Civic Involvement
Several questions asked about residents’ level of interest and involvement in politics and civic life generally. Only one-fifth of the sample claimed to have a "great interest" in local politics, while the remainder had either some interest (48%) or little interest (31%).
A large majority of respondents were registered to vote (89%) and planned to vote in the November general elections (89%), although only 64 percent had actually voted in the March primaries.
Large majorities also relied on newspapers (86%), nightly news shows (81%) or C-SPAN (71%) for information. Relatively few (35%) relied on the Internet to find out about candidates or politics; only 22 percent had referred to the Anne Arundel County government web site.
Almost three-quarters (74%) claimed to have spoken to someone about the presidential campaigns over the last two days. A considerably smaller number acknowledged having attended a meeting in which a state or local candidate was speaking (54%); a smaller percentage yet (38%) had contributed time or money to a political campaign for state/local office.
Slightly more than one-third had participated in the governing board of a non-profit organization (37%) or had been a volunteer in such an organization over the last five years (48%).
As Center director Nataf remarked "the greater the demand for time or other resources, the lower the likelihood for the public to partake in civic life. Those starting out in adult life between 18 and 29 are also much less likely to partake in civic life than those over 30 years old."
Measures of Aware and Participation in Political/Civic Life (in percent)
Respondents were asked about their voting preferences in the Presidential race. Likely voters were those who claimed a party registration and that they intended to vote in November. Among these, 41 percent intended to vote for Governor George W. Bush, while 32 percent favored Vice President Al Gore.
When asked "what is the most important face shaping your choice of Presidential candidate," it was clear that Gore supporters were especially influenced by Gore’s experience, a desire to vote with one’s party, a general sense that Gore would be "good for the average citizen" and a series of issues such as the environment, Supreme Court appointments, health insurance, abortion and to a lesser extent the economy, social security and Medicare.
Issues Ranked by Gore Percentage
Bush support came especially from those who favored less government, disliked the Clinton/Gore administration, mentioned guns or taxes as factors, or especially had some character factor to highlight. Specifically, of those mentioning "integrity, honesty or trustworthiness," Bush was favored by 71 percent, Gore by only seven percent. Other character issues painted a similar picture, as Bush received 64 percent of their support, compared to only 12 percent for Gore. Lastly, those who mentioned agreement with a candidate’s "vision" or "range of issues" were more likely to support Bush (61%) than Gore (32%).
Issues Ranked by Bush Percentage
Nataf commented that "these findings agree with those based on national polls which stress Gore’s advantage on many issues, but Bush’s significant lead on character issues." "Integrity, honesty and trustworthiness" combined with "other character issues" composed 24 percent of all responses, with all other 21 issues constituting the remaining 76 percent. "Only two categories of related issues accounted for about one-quarter of the ‘major factors’ cited by voters, showing how strongly character issues weigh as determinants of electoral choices," remarked Nataf.
Issues Ranked by Frequency of Citation
The race was a bit closer among likely voters when considering the race for the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats picked up more support, while still trailing the hypothetical Republican candidate 37 percent to 40 percent. "The large number of undecided voters at this stage of the campaign is striking. Between one-fifth (House, 21%) and one-quarter (Presidential, 24%) of likely voters still have not made a decision about either the House or Presidential races," Nataf stated.
CSLI polls have tracked growth in Internet use since October 1998. At that time, respondents were asked, "Do you regularly access the Internet" and 49 percent said "yes," 46 percent "no" and 5 percent "don’t know."
The October 1999 survey asked: "Do you currently have an Internet account that you use from your home?" To that, 54 percent said, "yes," 40 percent "no" and 6 percent "don’t know." The spring 2000 survey repeated the October 1999 question. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents do have an Internet account, 35 percent do not and 2 percent "don’t know."
At the time of the spring survey, Nataf was quoted as saying "This constitutes an average of another 5 percent of the population getting online every six months." The fall 2000 survey results show that this trend is unabated as 70 percent of the residents claimed to have an Internet account at their home, a seven percent increase in six months.
The "digital divide" was somewhat abated according to the latest findings. Female usage went up a bit more (7%) than male usage (4%). Usage among those earning less than $30,000 went up more (19%) than those in higher income categories (4%-10%). Those 60 years old or more remained among the lowest possessors of Internet accounts, with the percentage actually going down (from 35% to 34%). The gap between those with "some college" and those with less continued to be severe, as those with only a high school degree were half as likely (38%) to have Internet accounts as those with some college (72%), despite gains among both groups. "This shows that about one-fifth of the population is still being left behind in the online world" emphasized Nataf.
Table 5: Internet Accounts and Demographic Variables, March
2000 and October 2000
The survey polled a random sample of 446 county residents and has a margin of error of under 5 percent. Households were chosen from a database of households with listed telephone numbers in Anne Arundel County. The margin of error for subgroups such as income groupings, gender or education subgroups or those with children in schools is greater.
For information about this survey or CSLI, call Dan Nataf at 410-541-2733, or visit the CSLI web site at www.aacc.cc.md.us/csli where this press release is also posted under "surveys."