Release 00-300
March 29, 2000

Note: The text only version of the press release is included here.  Use these hyperlinks to access the accompanying tables or the questionnaire with percentages.

 Center for the Study of Local Issues: Spring 2000 Survey


      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 previous results.
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 home.
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 removal.

Revenue Cap

      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 (p>.05).
“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).

Most Important Problem

      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.”

County 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 variables.

Government Services

      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 services.”
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 excluded.”
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.”

Knowledge 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.”

Internet Use

      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.”
“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 exposure.
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 week.
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.

County’s 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  where this press release is also posted under “surveys/spring 2000.”

Go to accompanying tables or the questionnaire with percentages.