Anne Arundel County survey finds residents perceive economy improving

The Center for the Study of Local Issues has conducted a survey focusing on Anne Arundel County residents’ views concerning economic conditions and experiences, state budget cuts, crabbing licenses, the use of cameras to enforce speeding and red-light laws, nonprofit organizations, the most important issue facing the federal government, H1N1 flu, presidential job approval and trust in the different political parties.

The Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College conducts surveys of Anne Arundel County residents each March and October, offering students a valuable learning experience while providing the community with public opinion findings. A summary of our findings for this October is provided below.

Some of the major findings from this fall’s survey include:

Perceptions of improvement or stabilization of the economy:
CSLI surveys in the recent period have focused on the public’s perceptions of the economy. The fall survey revealed somewhat more positive (or less negative) assessments. The percentage citing the economy as the most important problem declined from 48 to 33 percent.

There was slight improvement in perceptions of economic conditions at the local, state and national levels. There were some declines in those citing economic hardships such as the cost of utilities or losses in stock or pension accounts. Fewer respondents said they were delaying major purchases. There was some increase in the percentage citing problems with their health care coverage.

Most respondents thought improvements in economic growth, employment and housing values would occur by 2012; finding a “better balance” in state/local budgets wasn’t expected until 2014. A better balance in the federal government’s budget wasn’t likely until 2015, with many saying a better balance would never occur.

Right direction/wrong direction: There was a noticeable increase in the percentage saying the county was moving in the right direction, 52 percent, up from 47 percent last spring and regaining the percentage found one year ago.

Perceptions of the future: Questions about conditions in 2020 were asked, including taxes, the economy, health care and the environment. A plurality (47 percent) thought the economy would be better in 2020 compared to only 26 percent saying it would be worse.

State budget cuts: Respondents generally thought budget cuts offered by Gov. Martin O’Malley were either “about right” or “too big.” Few said the cuts were “too small.”

Other budget issues: Freezing tuition at the University of Maryland and maintaining spending on public schools were favored; requiring school employees to take furlough days and moving teachers’ pension obligations from the state to the local level were not.

O’Malley and budget cuts: Respondents offered a mixed picture of the job the governor has done balancing the state budget, with a plurality (42 percent) saying “okay job.”

Crab licenses: A plurality (49 percent) supported the licenses of part-time crabbers.

Traffic cameras: A plurality (49 percent) favored the use of cameras both to catch and ticket those running red lights and those who are speeding near schools and construction sites.

Nonprofit organizations: Questions about name recognition, impressions and contributions to local nonprofit organizations were asked, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Providence Center having the highest name recognition.

H1N1 flu: A small majority (52 percent) said that they would be “very likely” to get vaccinated again this illness if they knew they were eligible.

Most important problem faced by federal government: The economy, health care, war/defense and government budgets/spending were the most important problems cited.

Obama’s job approval: 47 percent approved.

Which party do you trust?: Democrats were somewhat more likely to be trusted (37 percent) “to do a better job in coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years” than the Republicans (28 percent) or neither party (27 percent).

Methodology: The survey polled a random sample of 577 county residents who were at least 18 years old. It was conducted Oct. 19-22, 2009, during evening hours. Phone numbers were derived from a database of listed numbers as well as computer chosen, randomly assigned numbers. There was about a 4 percent statistical margin of error for the overall sample; the error rate was higher for subgroups such as “Democrats.” The dataset was weighted by gender and party to better represent the general population. College students were trained and used as telephone interviewers.

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