Press Release: October 21, 2002
Center for the Study of Local Issues
Anne Arundel Community College
Contact: Dan Nataf (410) 777-2733
Local Voters Wrestle with Electoral Races
According to a survey conducted October 14-17 by the Center for the Study of Local Issues (CSLI) at Anne Arundel Community College, voters might be going to the polls only dimly aware of the candidates and their stands on November 5th. While likely voters (83% of all respondents) tended to claim a high level of awareness of some races, such as that for Governor, a majority had little understanding of other races such as clerk of the court or judge of orphan’s court.
CSLI director Dan Nataf said, “Voters’ awareness of candidates and issues was especially low for offices that have no broad policy-making function. That’s why races for these offices often result in success for the incumbent who at least has the advantage of greater name recognition or for the party with the largest registration.”
While 78 percent had a high awareness of the race for Governor, it dropped to only 46 percent for the County Executive’s race. That figure was nearly halved for offices such as the County Council (26%) and House of Delegates (19%). The court/law-oriented offices had very significant percentages of the sample indicating a “low” level of awareness, particularly for State’s Attorney (51%), Clerk of the Court (66%) and Judge of Orphan’s Court (75%)
Table 1: Level of Awareness for Various Races (in percent)
Voters were also asked, “What do you do when you get to a point on the ballot where you are not familiar with the candidates for office?” Voters were overwhelmingly likely to vote for their party’s candidate (40%), or vote for the incumbent (7%), if they voted at all (47% said they would not vote for the office). “These findings,” suggested Nataf, “explain the large undercount typically seen for the more obscure offices.”
Along with voter awareness, the Center’s fall survey covered a range of other issues including the “most important County problem,” terrorism/emergency preparedness, County’s tax/revenue cap, economic conditions, appraisals of the County and County government’s performance, affordable housing, access to Anne Arundel County’s waterfront and support for certain state policies.
Most Important Problem
The recent sniper shootings in Maryland and Virginia led to a notable increase in the percent of citizens saying that “terrorism” was the most important County problem. In a previous poll taken by the Center in the fall 2001 (October 2001), terrorism topped all other issues (cited by 18%), but it virtually disappeared as an issue in March 2002 (1%). It increased to 11 percent in the fall 2002 survey, while crime stayed the same (9%). According to the Center’s director, “interviewers mentioned that the sniper shootings were what people were most likely to mean when they stated ‘terrorism’ as their prime preoccupation.”
Table 2: Percentage Citing Item as County’s “Most Important Problem”
Growth and development (15%), education (19%), crime (9%) and transportation (10%) joined with taxes (8%) and the environment (7%) as the most important problems of the fall. (See tables 2 and 3 as well graph 1). (Note that Table 3 combines “growth” and “transportation” into “Growth” as well as “crime” and “drugs” into “Crime” for reporting and comparison purposes).
Table 3: “Most Important Problem facing Residents” Fall 1995 to Fall 2001
The fall 2002 survey included three questions specifically about terrorism, along with several others about emergency preparedness.
The first question on terrorism dealt with the public’s perception of the likelihood of a “terrorist attack on a location within Anne Arundel County over the next year.” As shown on table 4, the percentage of respondents thinking that a terrorist attack in the County was “very likely” increased somewhat from the level seen last spring (16% vs. 10% in spring), accompanied by a drop in the percentage saying “not very likely” from 52 to 37 percent. “This might again reflect fears based on the sniper shooting,” Nataf speculated.
Table 4: Likelihood of Terrorist Attack in Anne Arundel County
Residents seemed more optimistic that local government could effectively respond in the event of a terrorist attack, with the percentage saying that local authorities were “very prepared” more than doubling from last spring (up to 16% from 8%) (see table 5).
Table 5: How prepared are local authorities in event of a terrorist attack
As seen on table 6, there was virtually no change in the percentage of residents saying that changes introduced as a result of the September terrorist attacks have endured, other than a five percent decrease in those saying “stayed a part of life” (with a corresponding increase in the “no answer” category).
Table 6: Has your situation gotten back to normal?
The fall survey asked a set of questions about residents’ preparations for “an emergency event such as a terrorist attack or a natural emergency such as a hurricane. Table 7 shows the results.
Table 7: Emergency Preparations Undertaken (in percent)
Most residents did not have stockpiles of food and water, nor had they developed a commonly understood family plan of action. Only one-fifth recalled receiving and reviewing the pamphlet sent out by the County regarding emergency preparedness. A majority had acquired basic first aid supplies as well as a battery-powered radio.
For the first time in several years, there was an increase in the percentage of respondents agreeing that the tax/revenue cap has “hurt the ability of the County to provide services to its citizens.” While a new low in public perceptions of the cap’s impact had been reached last spring, the percentage in fall rose from 21 percent to 32 percent, the highest percent since 1997. (See table 8 and graph 2).
Nataf said “I had been puzzled by the findings from last spring, since the extraordinary security measures undertaken by all levels of government, which placed new and unexpected burdens on government budgets, found no reflection at that time in this question. Perhaps the public is now starting to perceive that the cap may be affecting government’s ability to find resources to pay for these additional services.”
Table 8: Percentage Agreeing that Revenue Cap has Hurt Ability of County to Provide Services: Spring 1996 to Fall 2002
Economic Conditions and Issues
Residents remained upbeat about the local economy, even though there was some drop in optimism. While in spring 2002, three-quarters said that economic conditions in Anne Arundel County were “excellent” (14%) or “good” (60%), by fall there were fewer respondents saying excellent (6%) although the percentage saying good remained at 60 percent. A somewhat larger fraction claimed that the local economy was “only fair” (27%, up from 21% in spring), with the percentage saying “poor” stayed the same at four percent.
Appraisals of the County and its Problems
The survey included a CSLI benchmark question: “Overall,
would you say that the County is headed in the right direction or in the wrong
direction?” Graph 3 shows that
the results have not varied much, hovering around 60 percent. (Fall results: 61%
said “right,” 21 said “wrong” and 18% were unsure).
A significant majority of the public continues to perceive the County as
going in the right direction.
In the CSLI spring 2002 survey, County government was found to have a passing, if not exemplary grade between a “B-“ and a “C+.” The fall survey followed this with a set of questions asking whether certain problems had improved, stayed the same, or gotten worse “in the four years since the last election.” The results are presented in table 9 sorted by the “mean value” (a lower score indicating higher average perceptions of improvement).
9: Have Problems Improved, Stayed the Same or Gotten Worse (in percent)
The County was seen as having significantly improved in the availability of parks and ball fields as well as in emergency preparedness. Other areas seemed largely unchanged, such as economic conditions and general responsiveness of County government. While some areas showed room for improvement such as in County schools, government employee salaries and growth/development, the areas needing the greatest improvement were crime, water and air quality, taxes, ethics and especially traffic congestion
Nataf remarked, “these findings show that the County still faces significant challenges in major policy areas such as crime, schools and traffic congestion. These issues are among the ‘most important problems’ discovered by the CSLI surveys over the years; these results confirm that much remains to be done to satisfy public opinion.”
When asked whether there was a specific problem “that you would like the next County Executive to focus upon,” education (33%) clearly led the way. It was followed by growth (11%), traffic/transportation (11%), crime/public safety (10%) and taxes (7%) as shown on table 10.
Table 10: What should County Executive focus upon?
Various State Policy Issues
A battery of questions dealt with issues related to specific state policies. Table 11 summarizes the results.
11: Support for Various State Policies (in percent)
The Governor’s current policy of “no slots, no casinos, no exceptions” found the public split, with a plurality opposing this policy (48%).
The only other policy that raised the public’s opposition was to raise taxes “to cover the estimated billion dollar deficit in Maryland’s coming budget,” which had 59 percent in opposition.
By contrast, the public took liberal stances on other issues, favorable to gun control (52% supporting), Maryland’s current law permitting abortions (57%), and spending more money on education (69%) and prescription drugs for seniors (78%).
“As usual,” Nataf commented, ”the public is eager to increase the financial burden on government, but is highly resistant to increasing government revenues by higher taxes. CSLI’s polls have shown that the public is at least consistent in this respect.”
A notable majority (63%) was also in favor of changing the way school board members are selected from an appointed to an elected board.
The survey asked an open-ended question, “Can you think of any other important issue facing the state?” One major contrast between the County and State “most important problem” questions was apparent in the much higher score given to the environment. Safety and transportation were also significant problems. In part these results may reflect the fact that respondents were asked about other issues after having been presented the issues summarized on table 11.
Other Important Issues facing the State
Two questions inquired about affordable housing. The first asked respondents to volunteer what “came to mind” when they heard the term “affordable housing.” Table 12 shows a summary of the open-ended comments, recoded to fit into one of several categories. The most frequent response was a price range (39%), with the median responses in the $150,000 to $200,000 ranges.
Volunteered Responses to Open-ended Query about Meaning of “Affordable
The dearth of such housing was mentioned by one fifth of the sample (20%). Comments such as “there is none in Anne Arundel County” or a part of the County were contained in this category. Several respondents focused on the type of housing (19%) such as apartments (sometimes mentioning low rents) or townhouses. Many respondents (12%) mentioned some element of affordability, such as “not too expensive” or “what I can afford given my income.” The smallest percentage (9%) focused on the type of person who might seek affordable housing such as “low income” or “average persons.”
The second question regarding affordable housing asked whether “the lack of affordable housing in Anne Arundel County” is a problem. Table 13 shows the results, with a majority agreeing that the lack of such housing is a problem.
Table 13: Is the Lack of Affordable Housing in Anne Arundel County a Problem?
“There was a statistically significant relationship between the perception of the lack of affordable housing and a respondent’s income,” Nataf explained. “Only 11 percent of those making between $30,000 and $50,000 thought that the lack of affordable was not a problem, compared to 26 percent of those making over $100,000. Clearly there is a class element in the perception of housing affordability.”
Access to the County’s Waterfront
A question on the survey dealt with access to Anne Arundel County’s waterfront by asking “Is access to Anne Arundel County’s waterfront a problem for you?” Only 15 percent of the sample agreed that accessing the waterfront was a problem (78% said no, 7% no answer).
The survey polled a random sample of 370 county residents who were at least 18 years old. Phone numbers were derived from a database of listed numbers as well as computer chosen, randomly assigned numbers. The statistical margin of error for the overall sample was about five percent
For information about this survey or CSLI, call Dan Nataf at 410-777-2733, or visit the CSLI web site at www.aacc.edu/csli where this press release is posted under “Recent Surveys.”
Survey, Fall 2002 with Percentages
do you think is the most important problem facing the residents of Anne Arundel
County at the present time? (DON’T
READ THE LIST! Have them volunteer an answer)
Overall, would you say that the County is headed in the right direction or in
the wrong direction?
(1) Right direction 61%
(2) Wrong direction 21%
(0) Unsure or don’t know 18%
2.1 Some people believe that the County’s ability to provide certain services has declined due to the County’s cap on revenue from property taxes. Others think it hasn’t affected services.
Do you think the revenue cap has hurt the ability of the County to provide services to its citizens?
(1) Yes 32% (2) No 52% (0) Don’t Know, No Answer 16%
3.0 Thinking about our County's economy, how would you
rate economic conditions in Anne Arundel County today -- excellent, good, only
fair, or poor?
(2) Good (3)
Only Fair (4) Poor
(0) Don’t Know, No Answer
elections for state and local offices will be November 5th.
Do you think you have the time to get to the polls that day?
83% (2) No 13%
(3) Not sure 4% (4)
Won’t answer 1%
IF YES, proceed to 5.0, if not, jump to question 5.13 on page 3
I would like to know your level of awareness of various electoral races.
If you say you have a “high”
level of awareness, that means you:
know the names of the candidates,
have some idea about their stands, and
feel comfortable making a choice.
you have a “low” level of awareness, which
means you probably don’t know the names of the candidates and don’t
feel comfortable making a choice.
A “medium” level
of awareness is somewhere in between.
What do you do when you get to a point on the ballot where you are not
familiar with the candidates for office? (Volunteered answer, but check of f if one of the following): (results reported in the text
exclude the “no answer” category and thus differ from the percentages below)
Is there a specific problem or issue that you would like the next County
Executive of Anne Arundel County to focus
5.14 Is access to Anne Arundel County’s waterfront a
problem for you? (1) Yes
15% (2) No
78% (0) N.A. 7%
5.15 When I say
“affordable housing” what comes to mind?
Is the lack of affordable housing in Anne Arundel County a problem?
(1) Yes 54% (2) No 34% (0) Don’t know 12%
about the four years since the last election, I am going to ask you whether a
County problem has improved, stayed about the same, or gotten worse.
6.0 The next few
questions ask whether you support or oppose a state government policy.
Can you think of any other important issue facing the state of
your opinion, how likely is a terrorist attack on a location within Anne Arundel
County over the next year, very likely, somewhat likely or not very likely?
(1) Very likely
prepared do you believe local authorities to be in the event of a terrorist
attack in Anne Arundel County, very prepared, somewhat prepared, not very
(1) Very prepared
about how the events of September 11th last year may have changed
your plans and situation, have any changes introduced after September 11 stayed
a major part of your life or have things been “getting back to normal”
(1) Back to normal
Have you done any of the following to prepare for an emergency such as a
terrorist attack or a natural emergency such as a hurricane?
11.2 We are almost done. The last few questions will help us to better understand your responses.
you currently have an Internet account that you use from your home, what type of
connection do you have?
Don’t have an Internet connection at home
(2) Regular dial-up 40%
(6) Other 2% (0) Don’t know 11%
With which political party, if any, are you registered?
(1) Democratic 41% (4) None 8%
(2) Republican 35% (5) Other 0%
(3) Independent 9% (0) No Answer 7%
14. 0 Which of the following best describes your political beliefs: Liberal, Moderate or Conservative?
(1) Liberal 15%
(2) Moderate 49%
(0) Other, No
No Answer 4%
16.0 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.
I am going to read some categories relating to income.
Please stop me when I reach the category in which your household income
(0) No Answer 15%
race, how would you describe yourself?
(1) Black 9%
(2) White 78%
(3) Hispanic 2%
(4) Asian 1%
(5) Other or mixed racial background
19.0 Regarding Religion, how would you describe yourself?
Non-practicing, Agnostic or Atheist
(4) Jewish 1%
What is your current marital status?
21.0 How long have you lived in Anne Arundel County:
Which of the following best describes your home: A detached single family
home, a townhouse, a condo, or an apartment?
23.0 Do you own your home or is it rented? (1) Owned 82%
(2) Rented 11% (0)
No answer 7%
24.0 How many children living at home currently attend public or private
25.0 Gender of respondent to whom you were speaking:
26.0 Zipcode _______________
 All values in tables are percentages unless otherwise noted. Tables may not equal 100% due to rounding. The questionnaire is attached, with percentages included instead of the original answer values.
 52% said that the tax/revenue cap had not hurt the ability of the County to provide services, while another 16% had no opinion.