Economy cited as top problem in regional quality of life survey

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Economy cited as top problem in regional quality of life survey

Central San Joaquin Valley residents believe the economy – and particularly the lack of available jobs – is the most pressing problem affecting quality of life in  the region today, according to a new survey conducted by California State University, Fresno.

Residents of Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties responding to a Quality of Life telephone survey reported they are much less satisfied with their current financial situation than a year ago and they are less confident of the ability of government at all levels to solve problems.

The survey of approximately 600 respondents was conducted in spring 2011 by the Social Research Laboratory at Fresno State under the direction of Edward Nelson. Similar assessments have been made by Fresno State since 2001. The laboratory is part of the College of Social Sciences at Fresno State.

Looking at this year’s responses and comparing them to previous surveys, Nelson found:

  • For the second straight year, the economy was the most frequent problem mentioned by respondents, followed by crime. Other issues, such as traffic and transportation that were cited as much more pressing in surveys three to five years ago, faded in importance as the economy worsened.
  • Financial satisfaction decreased from 33 percent of respondents in 2010, to only 21 percent of this year’s survey participants.
  • There was an increase – 42 percent in 2010 and 43 percent in 2011 – in respondents who said their financial situation was getting worse. This was up from 25 percent in the 2008 survey.
  • The public’s confidence in government to solve problems has been dropping during the past decade: 30 percent of respondents were positive about local government in 2011 vs.  36 percent in 2002.
  • Positive ratings for the federal government dropped by more than half (40 percent favorable in 2002 vs. 17 percent in 2011).
  • State government’s positive ratings dropped from 24 percent in 2002 to just 12 of respondents in 2011.
  • Confidence in political and business leadership in local communities also dropped.

On the plus side, respondents remain optimistic about the future.

“Almost three times as many people said they expected their financial situation to get better next year than thought it would get worse,” said Nelson.

Even though respondents are clearly dissatisfied with their financial situation and the performance of their elected officials, they remain highly satisfied with their community and neighborhood, Nelson added.

“It’s clear that people tend to be more satisfied with objects that are closer to the center of their life than with objects farther away from the center,” he said. “People rate public schools in their community higher than in the state. People are more satisfied with their neighborhood than with their community. This principle also applies to government. Local governments are rated more positively than the state and federal government.”

The Quality of Life survey is based on random-digit telephone dialing interviews of adults in four counties and is conducted in English and Spanish.

For more information or a copy of the report, contact Nelson at ednelson@csufresno.edu or call 559.278.2275.

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