Dr. Nataf and AACC survey takes pulse of community

| October 25, 2016
Blackwall Hitch

surveyA survey of 553 Anne Arundel County residents conducted October 7-13 by the Center for the Study of Local Issues (CSLI) at Anne Arundel Community College asked respondents “For whom would you vote if presidential elections were today and the candidates were Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump?” Among likely voters, Clinton received 40 percent while Trump obtained 34 percent. A few respondents chose Libertarian Gary Johnson (5 percent) or Green Party candidate Jill Stein (1 percent), while others were undecided (11 percent), or wouldn’t vote for either (10 percent). Another 3 percent did not answer the question and were excluded from the calculation of these percentages. Details are found later in the press release (pp. 32-33).

Other than the choice for president, the survey included questions about a variety of policy choices such as the start of the school year, the building of another bridge to the Eastern Shore, and how the Board of Education should treat transgender pupils. In addition, the survey asked how worried respondents were about a range of topics including race relations, illegal immigration, climate change and bullying in public schools.

The survey asked a range of benchmark questions about the most important problem facing residents, assessments of the local economy and its impact upon residents and the direction of the county, state and nation. There was also a set of questions about the job approval of the county executive, governor and president.

A detailed review of these issues as well as other results follows the summary of findings. The actual questionnaire and percentages can be found in Appendix A at the end of the press release.

Summary of Main Findings

Most Important Problem Facing County Residents: Crime/drugs (19 percent) was cited the most, followed by growth/development (14 percent), the economy (10 percent) and taxes (9 percent). (See p. 4-6.)

Right Direction/Wrong Direction: The percentage of those saying that the county was moving in the right direction was 56 percent, up five points from last spring. Following a dramatic increase observed in the percentage of those saying that the state was going in the right direction in spring 2015 – 47 percent and up 20 points from fall 2014 – the trend has been less dramatic but still included a four-point rise since last spring – to 56 percent. The percentage applicable to the country declined a bit from 21 to only 20 percent. (See pp. 7-8.)

Perceptions of the Economy: The survey found a drop in the percentage that viewed the county’s economy as excellent or good – down five points to 60 percent. The decline in the appraisal of the state economy was nearly the same – dropping four points from 53 to 49 percent. There was also a four-point drop in the evaluation of the national economy – from 24 to 20 percent saying “excellent/good.” (See pp. 9-14.) 2

Economic Conditions Experienced by Individuals: Starting in March 2008 a variety of items were added to the semi-annual survey to evaluate respondents’ economic experiences and perceptions. The fall 2016 survey found that most economic indicators did not experience much change with a few more down than up, but generally stable. (See pp. 15-17.) An analysis showed that those with household incomes under $75,000 generally were more likely to cite a specific negative economic condition as applicable to themselves or their households. Another analysis of the relationship between economic conditions and voting preferences for president highlighted some differences among supporters of different candidates. (See pp. 17-19.)

Consumer Confidence: There was some improvement in consumer confidence measures this fall, with slightly higher percentages expressing optimism towards growth, unemployment, inflation and personal finances. An analysis shows that Clinton voters were more optimistic than Trump voters about the economy. (See pp. 20-21.)

Agreement with Policies and General Attitudes Facing the State and County: Respondents strongly agreed with a delay in the start of the school year until after Labor Day. They were also generally favorable to the idea of building another bridge to the Eastern Shore, an expansion of the county’s mosquito spraying program and the idea that local government should not promote much more development. They did not think that former county executive John Leopold should again run for office. They were likely to disagree with the statements that the county was currently doing enough to combat heroin use and addiction or that the county already has enough public access points to the Chesapeake Bay. The public was evenly divided on the question of whether the Board of Education should treat transgender students on the basis of their birth gender as opposed to the gender with which they identify. There was also an analysis of how Trump and Clinton supporters compared in their support for the various statements. (See pp. 22-24.)

How Much to Respondents Worry About Various Problems Facing the Nation: The survey asked individuals how much they worried about a variety of national problems. The issues of greatest concern included the rising cost of a college education, the nation’s ability to confront terrorism, the financial burdens of retirement and the tendency for corporations to send jobs overseas. (See p. 25.) An analysis of Clinton and Trump supporters showed that those supporting the former were much more likely to cite climate change as a top concern; Trump voters highlighted illegal immigration, confronting terrorism, the over-regulation of business and the decline of America as a world power as key problems. (See pp. 26-27.)

Officeholders’ Job Approval: Job approval for both County Executive Steve Schuh and President Barack Obama rose two points – to 46 and 48 percent respectively. Governor Larry Hogan’s job approval was a little diminished – from 73 to 72 percent. (See pp. 27-28.) Analysis of presidential job approval by party registration and ideology was also included (pp. 29-30).

Which Party Do You Trust? The percentage favoring each choice: Democrats, Republicans or “neither” stayed nearly unchanged. Democrats remained more trusted than Republicans; those citing neither remained high at 28 percent, unusual during an election period. (See p. 31.) 3

Presidential Candidate Preferences: The survey asked respondents to indicate their choice for president. Aside from the general results mentioned above, there were more Republican voters who were undecided, wouldn’t vote or were thinking about voting for a third party candidate. (See pp. 32-33.)

Rationales for Favoring a Candidate: The sample was asked about a variety of possible factors that might help them determine who to support for president. Generally, the candidate who could “better defend America’s national interests,” “has the right ideas for improving the economy,” who could be “trusted to make the right decisions” and would “work with Congress” was preferred. Among Clinton supporters, the top three elements were “work with Congress,” “make the right decisions,” and “the need to fill Supreme Court vacancies.” Among Trump supporters, the top three items were “defend America’s national interests,” “has the right ideas for improving the economy,” and “trust the candidate to make the right decisions.” (See pp. 34-35.)

Open-ended “Most important reason why you favor this candidate for president?”: Respondents were asked to volunteer the most important reason for favoring a candidate. Their answers were broken into three categories: positive reasons affirming the candidate’s qualities; negative reasons; and policy or vision agreement. Negative reasons were cited by 42 percent of the sample; positive ones by only 33 percent. Policy was mentioned the least – 23 percent. (See pp. 35-36).

Presidential Voting Choices and Demographics: An analysis of several variables including age (p. 37), gender (p. 38), race (p. 39), marital status (p. 40), income (pp. 40-41), religion (p. 42) and education (pp. 43-44) was made.

Methodology: The survey polled a random sample of 553 county residents who were at least 18 years old, primarily using a database of listed and unlisted landline numbers along with cell phone numbers. Telephone interviewing was conducted October 7-13 during evening hours. In addition, members of a CSLI Web panel were asked to participate in an online version of the survey. There was about a 4.2 percent statistical margin of error for the combined sample; the error rate was higher for subgroups such as “Democrats” or “men.” The dataset was weighted by gender, political party and education to better represent the general population. College students were trained and used as telephone interviewers.

Contact Dan Nataf, Ph.D., center director, for additional comments or questions at 410-777-2733 and ddnataf@aacc.edu. Check the CSLI website for results for information and press releases for this and previous surveys: www2.aacc.edu/csli.

Source: AACC-CSLI

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