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Fall 2020 AACC Community Survey Results

A survey of 448 Anne Arundel County residents was conducted Oct. 9-16 by AACC. Results found that 50% of the respondents placed concern with COVID-19 as one of the two most important problems faced by residents at the current time. The economy ranked as the second most important problem. 

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

Racism was seen as a much bigger problem nationally (53% saying it's a big problem) than in Maryland (23%) or Anne Arundel County (21%). This topic, including perceptions of the Black Lives Matter movement and policy responses, is explored in detail below.

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

When asked about their choice for president, 49% chose Democrat Joe Biden while 40% identified incumbent President Donald Trump as their preferred candidate. When presented a choice of reasons for voting for a given candidate, 71% chose, “The candidate will foster more peace and justice to America” as “very important,” although this option was preferred more by Biden supporters (87%) than those favoring Trump (13%).

Other benchmark questions included the right versus 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.

Summary of Findings

Right Direction/Wrong Direction

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

Rating Economic Conditions - County, State and Country

For the county, the percentage saying “excellent” or “good” dropped from 68% to 57%. At the state level, this fall there was another drop from 62% to 55%. The federal level was down from 44% to 37%.

Expectations for the National Economy

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

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%) – but there was a rise to 51% in fall 2020. There had been a steady drop in the percentage fearing unemployment, with a rise in that percentage starting in fall 2019 and reaching a peak in spring 2020 (at 15%) before dropping in fall 2020 to 11%. 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.

New Coronavirus

We first reviewed how concern about the spread of coronavirus compared to other problems. We found that it rates lower than some other problems such as climate change and access to opioids. We moved 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%). Most people were content with the measures limiting hours of bars and restaurants or upon social gatherings (both about right at 52%). Differences among members of Democratic and Republican parties were noted. Most people were supportive of measures like mask wearing (82% supported it a good deal) or keeping public schools online (59%). Democrats were generally more supportive than Republicans.

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

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

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

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%) 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% said within six months, but 27% said one to two years. Republicans were more optimistic than Democrats about the time frame.

Trusted officials – Trump’s credibility relating to coronavirus information declined from 42% to 51% saying they had no 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.

Race Relations, Protests and Police Reforms

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

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

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

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

Voting Methods and Presidential Election Choices

People were strongly divided into equal groups saying that they would either use an absentee ballot to be sent by mail (15%), or deposited in a ballot drop box (35%) or vote in person early (24%) or on Nov. 3 (22%). 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% saying “very confident” than in the United States generally - 22%).

Challenger Joe Biden seemed to be favored by the public, gaining 49% of voting intentions compared to incumbent Donald Trump (40%). Those who had voted for neither Hillary 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.

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 Gov. Larry Hogan who obtained support from across the political spectrum. Trump’s job approval percentage was steady at 43%; Hogan’s declined a bit to 79% while County Executive Steuart Pittman stayed above 50% (at 51%), but dropped from 58% 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% (a recent record) while Republicans rose from 34% to 38%.

To view the complete report, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact Dan Nataf at ddnataf@aacc.edu

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