March 29, 2000
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Note: The text only version of the
press release is included here. Use these hyperlinks to access the accompanying
tables or the questionnaire
for the Study of Local Issues: Spring 2000 Survey
REVENUE CAP A MYSTERY TO MANY
Only 37 percent of polled county residents are aware that voters passed
an amendment to the county charter in 1992 capping an increase in property tax
revenues to 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation.
The Center for the Study of Local Issues
(CSLI) at Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) polled a random sample of 429
county residents March 13-16 and found that well over one half (58 percent) did
not know about this limitation on county income. Other issues examined by the
CSLI survey included the most important problem facing residents; the top
problem cited was growth (30 percent), followed by education (20 percent) and
crime (20 percent).
Those sampled said the county was headed
in the right direction (58 percent) by more than a two-to-one margin over those
saying the “wrong” direction (25 percent), a finding consistent with
Government services were rated based on
how much of a “good buy” they appeared to the public. The top ranked
services were public libraries, the fire department and AACC.
Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the
sample claimed that they recycled bottles, cans and paper goods “a lot.”
Asked how they found out about county
services, programs and events, respondents cited newspapers, TV network news and
discussions with friends and family as the three top methods.
Internet use is rising an estimated 5
percent each six months, according to CSLI polls. The most recent poll pegs
nearly two-thirds of the sample (64 percent) as having an Internet account at
The top desired uses for the county’s
Web site included the posting of information regarding inclement weather, such
as school closings, and schedules for services like trash pickup or snow
Despite their lack of knowledge about the revenue cap, 54 percent of
respondents denied that “the county’s ability to provide services has
declined due to the revenue cap.” Agreeing that services had been impaired
were 24 percent.
For those lacking knowledge of the cap, 34
percent would not offer a conclusion regarding the county’s ability to provide
services. Another 20 percent suggested that services had declined and 46 percent
thought that services had not declined. By contrast, only 4 percent of those who
had heard of the revenue cap had no opinion about the state of county services,
with 29 percent agreeing that services had declined and 67 percent saying
services had not been hurt due to the revenue cap.
CSLI director Dan Nataf noted that
“ironically, the ratio of those saying services had not been hurt compared to
those saying services had been hurt was exactly the same whether or not the
respondents had heard about the revenue cap (2.3 to 1). This implies that the
perception of decline in services is independent of any prior linkage to the
presence of a revenue cap. It probably has more to do with the respondent’s
expectation or demand for services in general.”
Revenue cap awareness tended to increase with respondents’ ages,
education and income levels. Those without children living at home were more
likely to say that they were aware of the cap (41 percent) compared to those
with children (32 percent). Those who were married were more aware (41 percent)
than singles (27 percent). These were statistically significant relationships
“The revenue cap has something of an
intellectual factor – you have to follow the news and have a minimally active
interest in politics to know much about it,” Nataf said. “Young people who
might not have voted in 1992 are least likely to have heard of it.”
By contrast, there were no statistically
significant relationships between demographic characteristics such as age,
education and income and perception of declining services. While Democrats were
more likely to perceive declining services than Republicans (37 vs. 26 percent)
and liberals more than moderates or conservatives (38 percent, 30 percent, 25
percent) the findings weren’t statistically significant.
Those who found that services were
declining were then asked “which services” were most affected. Nearly half
(46 percent) of the 66 respondents, or 15 percent of the entire sample, pointed
to schools, while smaller percentages mentioned police/safety (12 percent), snow
removal (12 percent), services to the elderly (5 percent) or social services
generally (5 percent).
CSLI polls regularly ask, “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 October 1999.
Growth/transportation issues still are the primary
concerns of residents (30 percent) followed by education (20 percent) and
crime/drugs (20 percent). Taxes run a distant fourth (7 percent). Other issues
constituted 15 percent of the total; another 9 percent had no answer.
“Growth became the most important
problem during fall 1997 and has not relinquished its top position since
then,” Nataf said. “Crime has been generally declining as an issue while
education has been relatively stable over the years.”
Direction: Right or Wrong?
CSLI polls have tracked responses to the question, “Overall, would you
say that the county is headed in the right direction or the wrong direction?”
since March 1999. This poll showed little change other than a slight increase in
the percentage saying right direction (58 percent) and a slight reduction in
those saying wrong direction (25 percent) or “don’t know” (17 percent).
There were no statistically significant relationships with demographic
This survey repeated a question asked in fall 1995: “Rate the value (of
each government service) for your tax dollar – is it a good buy, an okay buy
or a poor buy?”
The spring 2000 poll results show three
services clearly form the top legion: public libraries (81 percent saying
“good buy”), fire department (78 percent) and AACC (76 percent).
Next came trash collection and recycling
(68 percent), the police department (66 percent) and recreation and parks (65
percent). On the low end were such items as road maintenance and repair (35
percent) and planning and zoning (19 percent).
“What is truly amazing is the consistency in rankings across
the two polls,” Nataf said. “Nearly all of the ‘good buy’ scores for the
two polls are within the 5 percent margin of error for these surveys. It implies
that the public has a pretty firm set of opinions about the value of these
Nataf cautioned that “some ‘good
buy’ scores are lower than they would be due to a large number of respondents
failing to offer an opinion for a given service. For example, AACC has a ‘good
buy’ rating of 88 percent, a 13 percent improvement, when values across the
three value choices are included but the ‘don’t know’ answers are
Other services affected by the relatively
high percentage of “don’t know” answers include cultural arts, public
health services, senior citizens services, and planning and zoning.
Respondents were asked to what extent their household recycled cans,
bottles and paper products. Most said that they recycled “a lot” (63
percent) rather than “somewhat” (18 percent) or “very little” (16
percent). These percentages changed only slightly when respondents were asked
whether they personally tried to recycle such products.
Those most likely to recycle had higher
incomes, more education, were over 30 years old, married, had been in the county
for more than seven years and were members of a community association (all these
were statistically significant).
“Recycling is probably easier for those
living in single family houses rather than apartments since sorting trash can be
more easily accomplished using bins provided by the city or county,” Nataf
said. “Those who are somewhat older, married and members of a community
association are more likely to live in single family residences.”
of County Services, Programs, Events
Respondents tended to rely on local newspapers, major TV network news and
“discussions with friends or family” for information about county services,
programs and events. They tended to rely little on visits to the county Web
site, newsletters from elected officials or local government channels on cable
TV. About one-third (35 percent) were interested in being on a county e-mail
list to receive local government information.
“If the county could rely on e-mail for
communication, it could provide updated information very easily and cheaply; but
the lack of a ‘white pages’ of e-mail addresses makes it hard to
accomplish,” Nataf said.
“Since about half (47 percent) of the 63
percent who have home Internet accounts are willing to be on a county e-mail
list, this offers the county a useful way to disseminate information,” he
said. “However, it is unlikely to present the opportunity for paperless
information delivery for the immediate future.”
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
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.”
“This constitutes an average of another
5 percent of the population getting online every six months,” Nataf said.
“At this rate, the population likely to go online will be fully included
within three years.”
A follow-up question asked those not
online if they planned to get an Internet account within the next six months.
About 27 percent said “yes,” roughly another 6 percent of the sample, in
keeping with Nataf’s estimate based on historical patterns.
The demographics of Internet use have
shown both continuity and some change. Typical Internet users are under age 60,
have some college experience and make upwards of $50,000 a year. The Internet
have-nots are seniors, those making under $30,000 annually and with no college
Changes over the period include increasing
Internet use among younger and older respondents, increasing use among those
with lower incomes and increasing use among both men and women, but with some
increase in the gap between the sexes.
The amount of Internet use varied
substantially among those with Internet accounts. Those using the Internet
“for work or personal use” for under seven hours a week constituted 43
percent of the sample. Only 15 percent used the Internet more than 20 hours a
Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) had made an
online purchase using a credit card over the last year. Over two-thirds (68
percent) said that they would be likely to switch to higher speed cable or DSL
lines when these become available in the county.
Web Site Uses
Those with Internet accounts or likely to acquire them within the next
six months were asked how likely they would be to use a set of online services
which the county might offer on its Web site.
The “posting of inclement weather
information such as school closings” was deemed “very likely” to be used
by about half (51 percent) of the sample. Also relatively highly rated were: the
“posting of schedules for county services, such as recycling/trash pickup and
snow removal (42 percent);” “posting of county maps and other land use data
(40 percent)” and the “ability to apply for county permits and licenses
online (37 percent).”
“Nearly all of the items mentioned received a ‘very
likely’ rating by at least one-quarter of the respondents,” Nataf said.
“None of the items received more than 50 percent saying they would be ‘not
very likely’ to use the service. These findings imply that there is a
substantial potential demand for the posting of information and conducting
business online through the county Web site.”
The survey polled a random sample of 429 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 groups 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/spring 2000.”
to accompanying tables or the questionnaire