Press Release: March 16, 2001

 

Center for the Study of Local Issues

Anne Arundel Community College

 

Public Expresses Uncertainty About Anne Arundel Taxes

 

    Are taxes in Anne Arundel County higher or lower than in neighboring counties such as Baltimore or Howard?  According to a survey conducted March 12-15 by the Center for the Study of Local Issues (CSLI) at Anne Arundel Community College, many citizens are uncertain.  While government officials are quick to insist that Anne Arundel’s property taxes are the lowest of any large, similar jurisdiction, slightly more residents (27%) thought property taxes were higher than the percentage who thought such taxes were lower (23%).  About an equal number thought that taxes were the same (26%) or were unsure (25%).

     Residents were unlikely to say that the cap on property tax revenue had hurt the ability of the County to provide services to its citizens, as only 29 percent perceived difficulties rendering services, while 52 percent did not.

     Several other issues were reviewed by the CSLI.  The most important problem facing residents continues to be growth and transportation (25%), followed by education (19%) and crime (15%).

     Traffic congestion was perceived as “very serious” problem by a majority (57%), followed closely by growth (50%).  By contrast, crime was only perceived as “very serious” by ten percent.

     Those sampled said the county was heading in the right direction (62%) by more than a two-to-one margin over those saying the “wrong” direction (23%).

     Residents were optimistic about the local economy, with 75 percent saying it was excellent or good.

     The sample was asked about the “most important issue for young people,” and most responded by saying education (34%), drugs (19%), or jobs (12%).

     Several questions were posed about state programs and budget, including the M.S.P.A.P testing program for public schools, as well as preferences regarding how any state budget surplus might be spent.

     A series of questions delved into citizens’ feelings about diversity was also asked.

     Several questions about radio listening preferences were posed.

     Internet use including type of connection were queried as well.

 Revenue Cap

     CSLI has asked a similar question about the County’s revenue cap for several years. Since the spring of 1996, the percentage saying that the cap has hurt the ability of the County to provide services has varied between a high of 43 percent to a low of 24 percent.  Table 1 below provides the exact breakdown by survey.

 Table 1: Percentage Agreeing that Revenue Cap has Hurt Ability of County to Provide Services: Spring 1996 to Spring 2001

Question/Survey

Sp ‘96

Fa ‘96

Sp ‘97

Fa ‘97

Sp ‘98

Fa ‘98

Sp ‘99

Fa ‘99

Sp ‘00

Fa ‘00

Sp 01

% Agreeing

43

38

29

37

28

27

27

30

24

25

29

     CSLI director Dan Nataf remarked, “Residents do not perceive their property taxes as lower than in neighboring counties despite differences in rates.  They also do not generally perceive the County as having difficulties providing services.  These facts, combined with the finding that a significant percentage (36%) think that the cost of living is higher in this County than in neighboring ones, suggests that support for the revenue cap will not be eroded soon.”

 Perceptions of Problems – Growth, Transportation

 Respondents were asked to say whether certain problems were very serious, somewhat serious or not very serious.  Of the list presented, three (growth and development, traffic congestion, and crime) were clearly local in scope, while the others were not.

 Table 2: Percentage saying that a Problem was Serious, Somewhat Serious, or Not Very Serious.

 

Serious
Problem

Somewhat
Serious Problem

Not much of
a Problem

Don’t Know,

Unsure

The rapid pace of growth and development in your area

50

28

23

0

Traffic congestion in your area

57

25

17

1

Crime in your neighborhood

10

21

68

1

The cost of higher education in Maryland

25

34

25

16

Access to high quality health care

23

23

48

5

     Traffic congestion was clearly the most serious problem highlighted by the sample, as 57 percent indicated it to be a very serious problem.  The high values obtained for this issue along with growth (50%) confirm the general trend shown in the responses to the open-ended question “what is the most important problem facing the residents of Anne Arundel County at the present time.” Table 3 shows how the top four issues (crime, growth/transportation, education and taxes) have fared over the last few years.

 Table 3: “Most Important Problem facing Residents” Fall 1995 to Spring 2001

Problem

Fa ‘95

Sp ‘96

Fa ‘96

Sp ‘97

Fa ‘97

Sp ‘98

Fa ‘98

Sp ‘99

Fa '99

Sp ‘00

Fa ‘00

Sp ‘01

Crime

26

31

23

28

25

26

19

12

19

20

13

15

Growth

18

18

25

24

31

28

26

31

27

30

30

25

Education

14

21

20

20

18

17

28

24

18

20

20

19

Taxes

13

8

14

12

12

7

5

10

7

7

6

9

     The survey discovered that most respondents (51%) favored “the building of new roads or the improvement of existing ones” over new mass transit projects (34%) in order to solve transportation congestion issues. 

    However, respondents were strongly inclined to favor (60%) a “smart growth” style initiative that would “locate more homes and jobs near light rail and commuter rail stations to encourage the greater use of transit.

 Problems Facing Youth

     The spring 2001 survey asked an open-ended question “The most important issue facing young people toady is…”  Table 4 shows the results of asking this question.  Clearly issues relating to obtaining a good education, avoiding drug and alcohol use, and finding a job to cope with the growing cost of living were the most prominent.

 Table 4: Percentages Citing a Problem for Youth

Item

Percentage Citing

Cases

Education

34

115

Drugs, alcohol

19

64

Jobs, economy

12

40

Morals, values

7

22

Cost of living, cost of college

5

18

Safety and violence

4

15

Free time, diversions

3

11

Peer pressure, fitting in

3

10

Respect, discipline

3

10

Family breakdown, lack of parental involvement/control

2

7

Other

7

28

 Maryland State Issues

     The survey repeated versions of questions asked earlier this year by the Maryland Poll.  The first dealt with the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program and asked whether respondents thought it had improved education, or were insufficiently informed to offer an opinion.  Despite the significant press attention to this issue over the years, 46 percent could not venture a conclusion.  Over one-third (39%) felt the program was not improving education, compared to only 15 percent who felt that it was leading to improved public schools.

 

    Ways in which the projected state budget surplus might be used was also based on a version of the Maryland Poll.  The CSLI version differed in that it asked respondents to rank three proposed uses of the surplus rather than simply agree or disagree with a proposal.  As table 5 indicates, a large majority (63%) gave first preference to spending the surplus “to improve things like education, transportation or access to health care.” 

 Table 5: Percentages citing an item as Number One Priority for State Budget Surplus

Idea

% Ranking Item as #1

Save the money for a “rainy day”

11

Use the surplus to provide taxpayers with a tax cut

31

Spend the surplus to improve things like education, transportation or access to health care

63

    Director Nataf suggested that “citizens might be inclined to allow the state to keep the surplus, assuming that it was used for a high priority area of spending.”  When asked about their “most important spending priority,” 46 percent said education, compared to 16 percent for health care.  Over one-quarter (28%) were unsure.

Diversity

    The survey asked residents to agree or disagree with a set of questions about social diversity.  Nataf stated that “by and large, residents were prepared to live and work with others who are different in race and cultural background.”  However, he also pointed out that “despite such a willingness, many individuals still confine their social interactions to people who share their social characteristics.  Indeed, more people limit their interactions to others of a similar social class (45%) than a similar race/ethnicity (41%) or religion (20%).”  (See attached questionnaire for details)

Radio Listening Preferences

    The survey inquired about the sample’s radio listing habits.  Specifically, respondents were asked what radio station, if any, they listen to the most during a typical week, and how many minutes a day they tuned into the station.  Table 6 ranks the stations by the percentage citing it.  While the top ten most cited stations were mostly FM, two AM news or talk stations, WBAL (1090) and WTOP (1500) were second and third most cited respectively.

 Table 6: Percentage citing a Radio Station

Radio Station

Percent Citing

Cases

93.1 (WPOC)

7

25

1090AM  (WBAL)

6

22

1500AM  (WTOP)

4

15

102.7  (WXYV)

4

14

105.7  (WQSR)

4

14

104.3  (WOCT)

3

12

95.1   (WRBS)

3

10

103.1  (WRNR)

2

9

101.9  (WLIF)

2

8

106.5  (WMIX)

2

8

 

    The most typical number of minutes individuals spent listening to the preferred station was sixty (one hour), cited by 34 percent.  About 29 percent listened less, while 37 percent listened more.

     A second battery of questions focused on some local stations coupled with three others.  Annapolis based stations varied quite a bit.  This variance can be best shown by collapsing the original three categories asking how frequently a listener tuned in (“very frequently,” “somewhat frequently,” and “rarely”) together.  The results are found on table 7.

 

Table 7: Frequency with which Listeners Tuned into a Radio Station

 

Very

Frequently

Somewhat

Frequently

Rarely

Never

Don’t Know

14.1  WNAV (1430 AM)

16

80

4

14.2  WRNR (103.1 FM)

21

75

5

14.3   WYRE (810 AM)

8

87

6

14.4  WBAL (1090 AM)

42

54

4

14.5  WTOP (1500 AM)

32

64

5

14.6. WHFS (99.1 FM)

42

54

5

     Nataf said “the Annapolis stations generally have weaker signals than the three more powerful stations, which limits their range and potential audience  Still, among the three, WRNR fared best, while WYRE had a very small listening audience.”

 Internet and Cable Access

     The County’s two major cable providers, Comcast Communications Corp. and Millenium Corp have been extending their digital cable services throughout the last year.  Thirty percent of the sample claimed to already have adopted digital cable service.  When the 73 percent who said they had an Internet account at their home were asked whether they had also adopted cable modem service, thirteen percent said that they had.  Only four percent used DSL (digital subscriber lines), while 75 percent still relied upon a standard dial-up connection.  Nataf remarked “while DSL has been available longer in Anne Arundel County than cable modem services, it is likely that technical limitations have reduced its practical availability.”

     The percentage saying they had a home Internet account continued its steady increase, moving from 70 percent last October (2000) to 73 percent in March.

 Methodology

     The survey polled a random sample of 385 county residents who were at least 18 years old. The statistical margin of error for the overall sample is five percent.  Households were chosen from a database of households with listed telephone numbers in Anne Arundel County.

     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 posted under “surveys.”

 

CSLI SPRING 2001 QUESTIONNAIRE

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

Problem

PERCENT

Crime

9

Drugs (illegal drugs, use, sale)

6

Growth/overpopulation-too much development

15

Traffic congestion/problems

10

Education, problems with schools

19

Taxes – too high

9

Inefficient government, wasteful spending

1

Corruption in government/ politicians are bad

2

Environment (air, water pollution, save Bay)

5

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

4

Other answer:___________________________________

7

Unsure/No Answer

13

 

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

 

(1) Right direction                    62%

(2) Wrong direction                    23%

(0)  Unsure or don’t know             15%

 

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   29%         (2) No    52%       (0) Don’t Know,  No Answer   19%

3.0 Next I am going to ask you to compare tax rates for the property tax and the local income tax in Anne Arundel county to other counties in our region such as Baltimore or Howard Counties. 

 

Higher

Lower

Same

Unsure

3.1  First, do you think the property tax is higher, lower or about the same?

27

23

26

25

3.2  How about the local income tax, is it higher, lower or about the same?

17

7

48

28

3.3  What would you say about the overall cost of living in Anne Arundel county, is it higher, lower or about the same?

36

16

37

12

 4.0 Thinking about our County's economy, how would you rate economic conditions in Anne Arundel County today -- excellent, good, only fair, or poor

 (1) Excellent  10%   (2) Good  65%     (3) Only Fair   23%   (4) Poor    1%  
(9) Don’t Know,  No Answer  1%

 

6.0 I am going to read you a list of issues.  For each, please tell me whether you consider it to be a serious problem, a somewhat serious problem or not much of a problem.

 

Serious
Problem

Somewhat
Serious Problem

Not much of a
Problem

Don’t Know,

Unsure

6.1 The rapid pace of growth and development in your area

50

28

23

0

6.2 Traffic congestion in your area

57

25

17

1

6.3 Crime in your neighborhood

10

21

68

1

6.4  The cost of higher education in Maryland

25

34

25

16

6.5  Access to high quality health care

23

23

48

5

 7.0  To solve the transportation congestion issues that affect you the most, is it more important to fund new mass transit projects or build new roads and improve existing ones?

(1)  Roads                                                51%
(2)  Mass transit                                      34%
(3)  Combination (Vol. response)            11%
(0)  Not sure                                             4%

8.0  Are you in favor of locating more homes and jobs near light rail and commuter rail stations to encourage greater use of transit?

                        (1) In favor    60%            (2) Against            28%            (0) Don’t know, unsure  11%

9.0  The most important issue for young people today is (see table 4 in press release).

 10.0 Do you think the state of Maryland’s standardized testing program, called M.S.P.A.P., or “MISS – pap,” is leading to better quality education for the state’s public school students, or do you not know enough about it to offer an opinion?

(1)  Yes, better quality education              15%

(2)  NO, not improving education quality       39%

(0)  Don’t know enough to offer opinion, unsure      46%

11.0  You may have heard that the State of Maryland is expecting a large budget surplus this year.

I will read you three general ways in which the budget surplus might be used.  Please rank these in terms of your preference, with your most preferred use being number one, second most preferred use number two and so on.

The ideas are:

Idea

Ranked #1

#2

#3

11.1 Save the money for a “rainy day”

11

27

62

11..2   Use the surplus to provide taxpayers with a tax cut

31

45

24

11..3   Spend the surplus to improve things like education, transportation or access to health care

63

26

12

11.4  If 11.3 ask:  what is your most important spending priority?”

Other   37%

Education

46

Transportation

4

Health care

16

  The next few questions deal with social diversity.  Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statements.

Statements

Agree

Disagree

Don’t know, unsure

 My social interactions are largely confined to people who share my:

 

12.1  Race or ethnicity

41

56

4

12.2  Religion

20

75

5

12.3  Social Class

45

53

2

12.4  I feel the need to minimize characteristics of my race/ethnic culture  (e.g. language, dress) in order to be able to 'fit in".

7

88

5

12.5  I am satisfied with the existing programs and activities that promote multicultural understanding in my community.

60

24

16

12.6  Getting to know people with ethnic or racial backgrounds different from my own is easy for me.

86

12

2

12.7  I feel prepared to live with others who are different from me in race and cultural background.

89

8

3

12.8  My community is ethnically and racially diverse.

61

35

4

12.9  The people in my community respect the differences of others.

18

14

8

12.10  I feel comfortable working with people who represent different cultures, races, religions, etc.

97

2

1

12.11  More opportunities to recognize diversity are needed.

61

32

7

 13.0  What radio station, if any, do you listen to the most during a typical week?

 13.1 Station name:___see text_____________   13.2 Station frequency:   see text_________

 13.3  IF ANY CITED:  About how many minutes a day do you listen to this station?

Minutes:   see text

14.0  How frequently do you listen any of the following radio stations – very frequently, somewhat frequently, rarely, never.

 

Very

Frequently

Somewhat

Frequently

Rarely

Never

Don’t Know

14.1  WNAV (1430 AM)

2

3

11

80

4

14.2  WRNR (103.1 FM)

5

5

11

75

5

14.3   WYRE (810 AM)

1

1

6

87

6

14.4  WBAL (1090 AM)

10

14

18

54

4

14.5  WTOP (1500 AM)

9

10

13

64

5

14.6. WHFS (99.1 FM)

11

19

12

54

5

 14.7 Do you subscribe to digital cable service?   (1) Yes  30%   (2) No  68%   (0) Don’t Know 3%

 14.8 Do you listen to music channels offered by your digital cable service?

                                    (1) Yes    17%        (2)  No   76%        (0) Don’t Know   7%

 The next few questions concern Internet use

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

            (1) Yes              ß                                                      (2) No    (0) No answer (Go to demographics)

15.1 Have you taken any distance learning courses over the Internet during the last year?

(1) Yes  13%  (2) No  86%   (0) No answer  1%

ß

15.2  What type of Internet connection do you have at home:

(1)  Regular dial-up    75%

(2)  DSL                        4%

(3)  Cable modem        13%

ß                 (4) Other                       2%

ß                 (0) Don’t know             6%

ß

 

ß

 

ß

 

ß

 

ß

 

ß

 

ß

 

ß

 

ß

 

ß

ß

15.3 How many hours a week do you use the Internet for work or personal use.

 (1)  0 to 3 hours                        38%

(2)  3 to 6 hours                         17%

(3)  7 to 10 hours                       16%

(4)  11 to 20 hours                     14%

(5)  More than 20 hours             14%

(0) Don't know, no answer          1%                 ß

 

Þ        DEMOGRAPHICS

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

 16.0     With which political party are you affiliated?

             (1)  Democratic    35%                     (4) None                13%

(2)  Republican     36%                    (5) Other                 0%

(3)  Independent   11%                     (0) No Answer       5%

 16.1 For whom did you vote for President in the general election last year?

(1)  George W.  Bush   46%

(2)  Al Gore                  28%

(3)  Ralph Nader             1%

(4)  Pat Buchanan            0%

(5)  Someone else            1%

(6)  Won’t say, didn’t vote   18%

(0)  Don’t know                      6%

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

                                     (1)   Liberal        ===========ß    19%           

     ß    (2) Moderate             (go to 18)         49%

(3) Conservative =========ß    27%              

                ß     (0) Other, No Answer             5%

 17.1  If Liberal or Conservative: Is there an issue or two that makes you think of yourself as Liberal/Conservative?________________________________________           

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

             (1)  18 to 29            13%

(2)   30 to 44           34%

(3)   45 to 59           30%

(4)   60 or more        24%                 

(0)   No Answer          

 

19.0  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.

             (1)  less than a high school degree                   3%            

(2)   a high school degree                   18% 

(3)   some college or a two-year degree       38% 

(4)   completed college with a bachelor’s degree      22%

(5)   post graduate work                                               19%

(0)   No Answer                                                              0%

 20.0  I am going to read some categories relating to income.  Please stop me when I reach the category in

 which your household income falls.

             (1)  Less than $30,000          12%

(2)  $30,000 to $50,000      23%

(3)  $50,000 to $75,000      20%

(4)  $75,000-$100,000        16%

(5)  Over $100,000        16%

(0)  No Answer         13%

 21.0  Regarding race, how would you describe yourself?

             (1)  Black                           7%     

(2)  White                           86%   

(3)  Hispanic                        1%

(4)  Asian                             2%

(5)  Other racial background    2%

(0)  No Answer                    2%

 22.0   Regarding Religion, how would you describe yourself?

(1)  Agnostic or Atheist      4%

(2)  Protestant             45%

 (3) Catholic           35%

 (4)  Jewish                 2%

 (5)   Other  (specify: ________7%______________________________________)

            (0)  No answer                           8%

 

23.0 What is your current marital status?

 (1)  Single   20%    (2) Married    63%    (3) Separated  1%  (4) Divorced  7%       

(5) Widowed   8%      (6) Other      0%  (0) Won't say  1%

 24.0   How long have you lived in Anne Arundel County: _________ years (21 years, median)

 25.0   Is your household part of any community association?

 (1) Yes              57%    (2) No   41%    (0) Don't know, unsure   2%

 26.0  How many children living at home currently attend public or private school?

 

Note #s below enter “0” if none ß

26.1   Public

0=67%, 1=15%, 2=13%, >2 4%

26.2   Private

0=92%, 1=6%, 2=1%

 Hang-up, then note:

27.0 Gender of respondent to whom you were speaking:

(1) Male  41%    (2) Female  59%