Survey: Anne Arundel likes Hogan…not so much Trump

| April 24, 2017
Rams Head

A survey of 521 Anne Arundel County residents conducted March 25-30 by the Center for the Study of Local Issues (CSLI) at Anne Arundel Community College asked respondents whether they approved of the jobs that Larry Hogan was doing as governor, and Donald Trump as president. The public was twice as likely to approve of Hogan (76 percent) compared to Trump (35 percent). When asked whether they “would be inclined to keep Larry Hogan as Maryland’s governor or “would rather see a Democrat instead,” 70 percent favored Hogan over an unnamed Democrat (15 percent).

Other than these job approval questions, the survey included questions about a variety of policy choices at the federal level – focused on many of the key elements of the Trump agenda such as reducing the EPA, imposing tariffs on imported goods, a Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act, and large increases in defense spending (pp. 26-33).

At the state and local level the survey inquired about various issues including the school board’s decision to push out the morning start times for public schools, providing more public funding to assist low income students to attend private schools, the banning of fracking, and allowing the public to swim at all county owned beaches (pp. 34-35).

A section of the survey focused upon cybersecurity threats such as identity theft, online radicalization/recruitment of terrorists, and government hacking into individuals’ email or text messages (pp. 42-43).

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. 

A detailed review of these issues as well as other results follows the summary of findings. 

Summary of Other Main Findings

Most Important Problem Facing County Residents: Drugs continue to dominate the public’s concern as it was the most cited element (24 percent) followed by education (10 percent), the environment (9 percent) and crime (8 percent) (p. 5-7).

Right Direction/Wrong Direction: The percentage of those saying that the county was moving in the right direction was down from 56 last fall to only 51 percent this 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 spring 2017 survey revealed a slight drop from 56 percent last fall to 55 percent.  The percentage applicable to the country increased somewhat from 20 to 28 percent (pp. 8-9).

Perceptions of the Economy: The survey found a five-point increase in the percentage that viewed the county’s economy as excellent or good – up from 60 to 65 percent. There was a similar increase in the percentage viewing the state’s economy in a positive way: from 49 to 56 percent. Regarding the country as a whole, there was again a notable rise: from 20 to 28 percent saying “excellent/good” (pp. 11-17).

Economic Conditions Applying to Respondents: Starting in March 2008 a variety of items were added to the semi-annual survey to evaluate respondents’ economic experiences and perceptions. The changes from fall 2016 to spring 2017 were modest. There was a slight – 3 point – rise in the percentage “facing the possibility of unemployment” but most other negative indicators showed a small – usually 2 point – drop (pp. 18-19). An analysis showed that the period from spring 2009 to the present could be divided into four groupings each with a dominant element – fear of unemployment, wage stagnation, tax anxiety and the current period of “relative calm” (p. 20). Another analysis of the relationship between economic conditions and voting preferences for president highlighted some differences among Clinton and Trump supporters (p. 21). An analysis comparing those with household incomes over and under $75,000 showed that those earning under $75,000 generally were more likely to cite a specific negative economic condition as applicable to themselves or their households (p. 22).

Consumer Confidence: All four measures (economic growth, unemployment, inflation and personal financial situation) were mostly unchanged from fall 2016, although there was a drop in growth optimism (-7) and a rise in optimism about unemployment (+5). An analysis shows that while Clinton voters had been more optimistic than Trump voters about the economy in fall 2016, now they were generally more pessimistic than those who voted for Trump (pp. 23-25).

Agreement with Statements About Federal, State and Local Issues: At the federal level, a host of questions sought to gauge support for many parts of the new Trump administration’s agenda. Some stances were supported such as a “strong government efforts to deport illegal immigrants” (51 percent support, 38 percent oppose), travel restrictions on people from some Middle Eastern countries (49/44) and imposing tariffs on imported goods such as those from Mexico (44/41). Most items registered more opposition than support, with the greatest opposition expressed about statements such as “Freezing or reducing EPA grants and contracts, including those affecting the Chesapeake Bay” (22/70), “Eliminating 75 percent of all federal regulations” (25/58), “Reducing federal efforts to combat climate change” (28/65) and a “Hiring freeze of non-military personnel by the federal government” (31/60) (pp. 26-28). An analysis was made of the relationship between support for these statements and a variety of political variables (pp. 30-33).

At the state and local levels, strong support was found for, e.g., increasing business incentives to attract or retain large employers (74/13), “Using school redistricting to reduce overcrowding” (70/19), providing paid leave to workers (67/22) and limiting the extension of sewer systems into rural areas (59/23). There was less support for providing more public funding to help low income students attend private schools (46/44) or replacing public schools with charter schools (36/49) (p. 34). An analysis of Clinton and Trump voters regarding these statements revealed large differences for the banning of fracking (78/37), medical leave (83/48) and increasing business incentives (64/90) or replacing public schools with charter schools (16/57) (p. 35).

Building Permits: Two questions were asked – whether the respondent had applied for a building permit during the last year, and whether wait times had gotten longer, shorter or stayed the same. Those who had not applied were much more likely to say that wait times had stayed the same compared to those who had applied (61/37). Applicants were much more likely to say that wait times had decreased (31 percent) compared to non-applicants (6 percent) (p. 36).

Accurate vs. Fake News Sources: Two open-ended questions were included asking respondents to (1) name specific news sources or programs to obtain accurate information about current events and (2) identify media sources most likely to produce “fake news.”  Based on the number of times a news source was mentioned, Fox (22 percent) is clearly the most relied upon source for accurate information, followed up by CNN (14 percent), The Washington Post (10 percent), MSNBC (5 percent) and CBS, NPR and New York Times (all 4 percent).  An analysis of partisan differences showed that Democrats were much more likely to rely on The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC and NPR compared to Republicans who relied extensively on FOX (41 percent Republicans, 8 percent Democrats). However, CNN was relied upon to a considerable degree by Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated respondents (p. 37). An analysis showed that ideological liberals relied on CNN, The Washington Post, and NPR, while conservatives relied again on FOX and CNN (p.38).

Asked about fake news sources, again FOX (26 percent) and CNN (17 percent) led the way. Others included Breitbart.com (8 percent) and MSNBC (6 percent). An analysis showed that Democrats pointed to FOX (42 percent) as the main producer of fake news, followed by Breitbart (13 percent) and Facebook (8 percent). They also singled out President Trump/White House (6 points combined). Republicans pointed first to CNN (24 percent) but also to FOX (11 percent) and MSNBC (10 percent) as the most likely sites for fake news (p. 40). Another analysis showed that liberals were seven times more likely to point to FOX as a source for fake news than were conservatives, with moderates in the middle (p. 41).  While 50 percent of Conservatives and 49 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement “the mainstream media is an enemy of the American people,” only 10 percent of liberals and 11 percent of Democrats agreed (p. 42).

Cybersecurity Threats – How Serious? The survey asked respondents to evaluate various cybersecurity threats such as identity theft, hackers or foreign governments hacking into US utilities or targeting US elections, online bullying and spam/phony emails. The highest “very serious” scores were obtained by identity theft (83 percent), hackers or foreign governments hacking into US utilities (79 percent), online radicalization or recruitment of terrorists (78 percent), stolen credit cards (76 percent) and hackers or foreign governments targeting US elections (70 percent) (p. 42).  Regarding the targeting of US elections, Clinton voters were nearly unanimous in perceiving this as a very serious threat (95 percent) while Trump voters were less convinced (43 percent) (p. 43).

Presidential Voting Choices in November 2016. The survey asked respondents to indicate their choice for president in last November’s elections, and asked whether they would have preferred another candidate. The analysis presented showed that Democrats, liberals and moderates favored Clinton while Republicans, conservatives and unaffiliated voters favored Trump. More Democrats expressed a desire for a candidate other than Clinton (54 percent compared to only 41 percent among Republicans), with Bernie Sanders mentioned as the leading alternative (61 percent of Democrats favoring an alternative candidate). Surprisingly, Sanders was also the most preferred alternative candidate for Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Among Republican alternative candidates (other than Sanders), Ted Cruz and John Kasich were most commonly chosen (both by 12 percent of Republicans) (pp. 43-44).

Officeholders’ Job Approval: Job approval for the president – now Trump and no longer Obama – dropped from Obama’s last score (48 percent) to only 35 percent for Trump this spring. This figure closely matched the Gallup tracking poll score for the same period (pp. 47-49).  Trump’s low level of support was partly explained by his poor performance among unaffiliated voters, especially those who were ideological moderates (p. 47-49).

Governor Hogan continued to be popular, with his job approval rising from 72 to 76 percent. His support cut across both parties – with nearly unanimous job approval among Republicans (96 percent) but strong support from Democrats who disapproved Trump (53 percent) or approved (88 percent). A plurality of Democrats (48 percent) were inclined to keep Larry Hogan as governor while nearly all Republicans were as well (95 percent). Among those favoring an unspecified Democrat, only a few could offer any names such as Anthony Brown, Chris Van Hollen or Kevin Kamenetz (p. 46).

County Executive Steve Schuh saw his job approval percentage slip from 46 to 39 percent. An analysis showed that this might have been linked to his support for Donald Trump since those who approved of Trump across all parties were more inclined to approve Schuh’s job as county executive compared to those who did not approve of Trump (p. 46).

Which Party Do You Trust? The percentage favoring each choice – Democrats, Republicans or “neither” – was tilted somewhat in favor of Republicans. Perhaps due to the Democrats’ defeat in the presidential elections last year, they were less inclined to trust their own party than were Republicans of their own party. Republicans also benefited from greater trust among unaffiliated voters, who were apparently able to distinguish between their low job approval of Trump and their assessment of the Republican Party generally (p. 50).

Methodology: The survey polled a random sample of 521 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 March 27-30 during evening hours. In addition, members of a CSLI Web panel were also asked to participate in an online version of the survey starting March 25. 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.

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

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AACC

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