September 26, 2023
Annapolis, US 61 F

What’s On The County’s Mind? Land Use, Crime, and Inflation

A survey of 468 Anne Arundel County residents conducted from September 23 to October 1 by Anne Arundel Community College and the Center for the Study of Local Issues identified the economy, crime/drugs, and education as key issues as election season arrives.

Concern with the state of the economy loomed large in residents’ minds. This was expressed in several ways. It led among items listed as “the most important factors facing residents of Anne Arundel County at present,” with 32% citing it. When asked about the national economy, 71% cited inflation as the factor about which respondents were “very concerned” – above “federal government debt and deficit” (56%) and unemployment (24%). When asked about “the next few years” whether the national economy was expected to improve (32%), stay the same (18%), or get worse (50%), the latter was the choice of half of the survey participants. Sixty-four percent said that “wages or salaries are not rising as fast as the cost of living.” Only 15% characterized the national economy as “excellent” or “good” compared to 51% for the county and 48% for Maryland. Despite a relatively benign view of the county’s economy, only four percent said Anne Arundel County had “gotten better” at “making life more affordable in the county.” Candidates for county executive or council promising to lower taxes were favored by 66%, especially among Republicans; 16% felt lowering taxes was the “most important” issue facing the county. Clearly, the national inflationary situation has impacted citizens’ list of top issues.

Crime was another top concern among those responding to the fall 2022 survey. It was the second most mentioned item among the “most important problems” at 27%; it was joined with concern over “drugs” (such as the sale or use of illegal drugs) at 19%. Local candidates who might advocate “increased efforts to curb the use of illegal drugs” were favored by 71%. Those supporting “more spending and training of public safety personnel (e.g., police, fire) were favored by 64%. There was a perception that the county’s effort to “control crime” was not “getting better” as 51% said it has “gotten worse” versus only 7% saying “gotten better. Only 10 percent said that “reducing the opioid epidemic” had improved compared to 39% who said it had worsened.

Education was also a top issue for residents. It was identified by 23% as “the most important problem” facing the county. Only 8% agreed that “improving the academic performance of our children” had “gotten better” compared to 51% who said that it had “gotten worse.” Asked whether spending on public schools should be increased, 61% agreed. The Anne Arundel County Board of Education “job approval” score (combining “strongly” with “somewhat” approve) was just 32%, only above the approval score for Congress (24%). When considering the impact of changed start times for schools, the public was evenly divided about whether it had a positive (27%) or negative (27%) impact on the “ability of children to be ready for school at these new start times.” They were more pessimistic about whether the new times had a positive or negative impact on “congestion on the roads in the morning” (12% vs.40%), the ease of providing childcare coverage (7% vs. 34%), or “changes in after school routines/activities” (5% vs. 34%).

Land use and development were among the leading issues – if not quite as important as the ones mentioned above. The category “growth/overpopulation” found that 18% identified it as a “most important” issue. Only 12% thought that “managing growth and development” had “gotten better over the last few years. When asked whether they would “support,” “oppose,” or think that an item would have “no impact” on their choice for county candidate, 56% said would support one who favored “slower residential development” compared to only 12% who supported someone advocating “faster commercial development.” Even the “smart growth” alternative of “denser growth with more public transportation near train stations” was only supported by 31%, about equal to the percentage opposing (32%).

Compared to last spring and continuing a trend observed since fall 2021, a declining percentage of residents viewed COVID-19 as the “most important problem facing the residents of Anne Arundel County,” dropping from 14% to only 6%.

This change in the perceived severity of the pandemic was first clearly seen last spring when the score for the virus was “getting better” increased from 49% in fall 2021 to 78% in that survey. This fall, the percentage was essentially unchanged at 77%. The percentage who thought the pandemic was “already not much of a problem” rose from 19% (fall 2021) to 39% for fall 2022. For the first time, the survey offered the choice, “It (COVID-19) will continue to remain a concern indefinitely.” One quarter (25%) of respondents agreed with this assessment.

At the same time, the percentage of people saying they had contracted the disease increased by large percentages: from 15% in fall 2021 to 37% in spring 2022 to 59% this fall. Almost everyone asked (93%) knew “a family member or close friend who has come down with it.” The percentage of those who personally know someone who has died from COVID-19 had risen from 28% in fall 2021 to 40% in spring 2022 but did not see a further rise this fall (41%).

Election “horse race” questions were asked about the county executive and gubernatorial elections. The county executive race was a toss-up, with neither Jessica Haire nor Steuart Pittman with a lead outside the survey’s margin of error.

The race for governor was another matter: Wes Moore had an 18-point lead over Republican Dan Cox.

View the summary and detailed findings below, or download them here!

Download (PDF, Unknown)


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