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“Nationals October 2019

So, here’s the temperature of Anne Arundel County according to AACC’s semi-annual survey

| October 24, 2020, 03:24 PM

A survey of 448 Anne Arundel County residents conducted October 9-16 by Anne Arundel Community College found that 50 percent of the respondents placed concern with coronavirus/COVID-19 as one of the two “the most important problems faced by residents at the current time.” This was followed by “the economy” chosen by 24 percent. 

Last spring, the question only offered a single choice – 69 percent chose the coronavirus and only 10 percent chose the economy. The inclusion of an additional choice was partly responsible for these changes. Three other items in double digits were schools (18 percent), drugs (15 percent) and growth and development (13 percent); last spring, only the economy at 10 percent broke the double-digit level. By offering two “top choices,” it was possible to gain a better sense of the public’s concerns other than just the coronavirus. For more information about the most important problem, see pages 6-8. The press release will explore additional responses regarding coronavirus in a section devoted to this topic. 

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A part of the survey asked respondents to identify how serious various problems were in the county. The concern regarding coronavirus decreased by 14 percentage points to 46 percent saying “very serious”; the percentage citing “hate crimes in the county” went up 12 points to 33 percent. 

Racism was seen as a much bigger problem nationally (53 percent saying “A big problem”) than in Maryland (23 percent) or Anne Arundel County (21 percent). This topic – including perceptions of the Black Lives Matter movement and policy responses – is explored in detail in a later section. 

In the section focused on the presidential election, the most favored way for voting (cited by 35 percent) was to have obtained an absentee ballot and used a ballot drop box to return it. This was more than twice as many as those claiming to use the mail (15 percent). Another 46 percent said that they would vote in person – either on November 3 or using the early voting option. 

When asked about their choice for president, 49 percent chose Democrat Joe Biden while only 40 percent identified incumbent President Donald Trump as their preferred candidate. When presented a choice of reasons for voting for a given candidate, 71 percent chose “The candidate will foster more peace and justice to America” as “very important” although this option was preferred more by Biden supporters (87 percent) than those favoring Trump (53 percent). 

Other benchmark questions included right vs. wrong direction for the county, state and country. Economic conditions ratings were included as well as questions about personal economic circumstances such as facing the possibility of unemployment, the cost of education and health care. 

A detailed review of these issues as well as other results follows the summary of findings below. The actual questionnaire and percentages can be found in Appendix A at the end of the press release. Open-ended comments offered by online respondents can be found in Appendices B-J. 2 

Summary of Main Findings 

Most Important Problem Facing County Residents: 

Right Direction/Wrong Direction: The percentage of those saying that the county was moving in the right direction was down from 59 percent last spring to 41 percent this fall. Regarding the state, there was a decrease from 70 to 50 percent from spring to this fall. The percentage applicable to the country stayed in the same general range for the last few surveys: 30 percent compared to 32 percent last spring.

Rating Economic Conditions – County, State and Country: For the county, the percentage saying “excellent” or “good” dropped from 68 to 57 percent. At the state level, this fall there was another drop from 62 to 55 percent. The federal level was down from 44 to 37 percent.

Expectations for the National Economy: While the percentage of those saying that the economy will get better in the future (46 percent up from 41 percent), this was accompanied by a sharp rise in the percentage who were unsure (21 percent up from 9 percent).

Economic Conditions Applying to Respondents: There had been a steady reduction in concern about high taxes which continued to drop into spring 2020 when it reached an all-time low (46 percent) – but there was a rise to 51 percent in fall 2020. There had been a steady drop in the percentage fearing unemployment, with a rise in that percentage started in fall 2019 reaching a peak in spring 2020 (at 15 percent) before dropping in fall 2020 to 11 percent. The fear of inflation was relatively low over the last year and far below the most recent peaks in 2016. An analysis shows the disproportionate adverse economic impact upon lower income people. 

Coronavirus Section: This section starts by showing how concern about the spread of coronavirus compares to other problems – it rates lower than some others such as climate change and access to opioids. It moves on to review the pace of reopening the economy – asking whether the pace is about right or too fast/slow for both Anne Arundel County and Maryland (the pace was about right 56 and 62 percent). Most people were content with the measures limiting hours of bars and restaurants or upon social gatherings (both about right at 52 percent). Differences among members of Democratic and Republican parties were noted. Most people were supportive of measures like mask wearing (82 percent supported it a great or good deal) or keeping public schools online (59 percent). Democrats were generally more supportive than Republicans. 

People were asked about their personal experiences with COVID-19. Few had contracted it (2 percent), but 28 percent knew a family member or friend who had contracted it and 20 percent knew of someone who had died from it. Older people were commonly the ones to consider themselves “high-risk” – 39 percent of the sample.

More people thought that the situation was getting better (35 percent) rather than worse (20 percent), but many thought that the virus would surge this fall/winter (62 percent). Many people were concerned that someone in their family might get seriously ill due to the disease (41 percent said “very concerned”). 

Many people have already been tested for the virus either with a quick results (42 percent) or a longer wait (20 percent). 

Lifestyles had changed due to the virus – more stocking up of goods, changing travel plans/work routines/managing day care or home schooling and especially the purchase of goods online. 

Almost half (47 percent) said that they were experiencing unhappiness or emotional distress due to changes related to COVID-19. An open-ended set of questions asked about challenges and positives that have resulted from the virus situation. 

Some people were more optimistic than others about the time frame for a vaccine – 20 percent said within six months, but 27 percent said one to two years. Republicans were more optimistic than Democrats about the time frame. 

Trusted officials – President Trump’s credibility relating to coronavirus information declined from 42 to 51 percent saying they had “not at all” trust in his views. All categories of public officials such as the governor, county executive and various health officials also saw trust in them decrease from spring 2020. See pages 27-39 for details. 

Race Relations, Protests, Police Reforms 

A much larger group saw racism as a “big problem” for the country (53 percent) than for Maryland (23 percent) or Anne Arundel County (21 percent). Democrats and African-Americans thought that the prevalence of racism at all levels was greater than whites and Republicans. 

Regarding the Black Lives Matters protests, most people thought that they were either completely (43 percent) or mostly justified (25 percent). A majority (52 percent) thought that President Trump’s responses were “mostly harmful.” Few thought that the protests were “very likely” to produce “real change” (6 percent), although a greater number (37 percent) thought that it was “somewhat likely.” 

Several police reforms were embraced by the public. Majorities favored mandatory use of body cameras (68 percent said “very much support”), increased diversity and de-escalation training for police (55 percent) and were receptive to improvements of schools and health services in disadvantaged areas (57 percent). There was relatively little support for reducing police funding and applying it to community enhancement (15 percent).

People were hesitant to say that African Americans suffered from unfair treatment by Anne Arundel County police “very often” (14 percent); more said that it might occur “sometimes” (37 percent).

Voting Methods, Presidential Election Choices: 

Voting Methods/Confidence in Vote: People were strongly divided into equal groups saying that they would either use an absentee ballot to be sent by mail (15 percent) or deposited in a ballot drop box (35 percent) or vote in person early (24 percent) or on November 3 (22 percent). There were strong partisan preferences with Democrats much more inclined not to vote in person compared to Republicans. 

Respondents were much more confident that votes would be accurately counted in Maryland (49 percent saying “very confident” than in the United States generally – 22 percent).  

Presidential Election: Challenger Joe Biden seemed to be favored by the public – gaining 49 percent of voting intentions compared to incumbent Donald Trump (40 percent). Those who had voted for neither Clinton nor Trump in 2016 seem to now be gravitating to Biden – providing the advantage that puts him in the lead. An analysis was made of the impact of education and gender upon the vote – women and those with a college degree were much more likely to favor Biden than Trump. 

Other factors shaping vote: Those favoring Trump were especially interested in a candidate who “will shake up the status quo.” By contrast, Biden supporters were more interested in a candidate who could work across party lines and foster more peace and justice to America. Biden supporters were much more likely to say that they were motivated by their dislike for the other candidate than was the case for Trump supporters. Biden supporters were much more inclined to favor the appointment of a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg after the election than before.

Job Approval for the President, Governor and County Executive 

As might be expected, approval of various incumbents often fell along party lines. The major exception to this was Governor Larry Hogan who obtained support from across the political spectrum. President Trump’s job approval percentage was steady at 43 percent; Hogan’s declined a bit to 79 percent while County Executive Steuart Pittman stayed above 50 percent (at 51 percent), but dropped from 58 percent last spring.

Trust in Political Parties 

Both major parties experienced a bit of a rise in the percentage expressing trust – Democrats went from 39 to 41 percent (a recent record) while Republicans rose from 34 to 38 percent.

Note that some questions had an opportunity for open-ended responses. See PDF below.


The survey polled a random sample of 448 county residents who were at least 18 years old. Interviewing was conducted primarily using a database of members of the CSLI/AACC web panel who have been recruited when conducting previous telephone interviews. The survey was in the field from October 9 to 16. There was about a 4.5 percent statistical margin of error; 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. Students participated in the selection of topics and analysis of results. 

Contact Dan Nataf, Ph.D., for additional comments or questions at 410-777-2733 and [email protected].

Interested in the nitty gritty and the details abot what your neighbors are thinking?  Here is the PDF.

Download (PDF, 1.34MB)

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