Wood Communications Group: New survey reveals concerns, significant differences of opinion and stress in Dane County communities
Contact:Rick Remeschatis Dane County Council of Public Affairs ,br> rick@YourCFO.com
Julie Buss, Wood Communications Group
Job opportunities and the economy top list of concerns —– women, those lacking four-year degrees and households with lower incomes most worried
[MADISON, WI] Given events of the past few years, it may not come as much of a surprise that nearly half (48%) of Dane County’s adult residents believe that “…things are pretty seriously off on the wrong track.” It might, however, come as a surprise to discover that while more than half of all women believe things are on the wrong track (i.e., 51% wrong track, 31% right track), nearly half of all men believe things are on the right track (i.e., 46% right track, 37% wrong track). And, the fact that nearly half (48% to 37%) of individuals with four-year degrees and more believe things are on the right track, while those without a four-year degree believe by a 53% to 28% margin things are on the wrong track suggests that the economic duress of the past four years has laid a heavier burden on some households than others.
These and other potentially troubling glimpses of how residents of Dane County feel about job opportunities, the economy, public education and the quality of life in their communities surfaced in the Dane County Citizens Speak Out 2012 Spring Survey released by the Dane County Council of Public Affairs. The research was conducted in mid-May by Wood Communications Group and is based on a random digit dial 400-person sample with a sampling error of +/- 5 percent.
“We commissioned the research as a starting point for a series of informed discussions with our neighbors and leaders about where we are and how we might move forward together,” said Rick Remeschatis, vice president and treasurer of the Dane County Council of Public Affairs. “The survey confirms our belief that the number-one issue for most people in Dane County is the need for more jobs and a much stronger economy. It also reveals a greater frustration with the status quo than we had expected and a very real sense of urgency about the need to get moving.”
Jobs and the economy did emerge as the major issues of concern. More than 40% of all respondents and 54% of those with some post-high school education, but not a degree, volunteered employment and/or economic issues as the “…most important issues that [their] local elected officials need to be working on.”
The top strategies for improving the general wellbeing of their communities and Dane County as a whole were identified by respondents as attracting more technical degree jobs to the area (69%); investing more money in K-12 education (65%); providing more entry-level job training for young people (59%); and attracting more college-degree jobs to the area (55%).
When it came to getting something done on the economic and employment front:
· 86% agreed that, “The business community in my area needs to be more active in the effort to grow the economy and bring jobs to our area.”
· 76% agreed that, “If we really want to grow the economy and bring jobs to our area, we’re going to have to make the Dane County area a lot more appealing to employers.”
· 73% agreed that, “If we really want to grow the economy and bring jobs to our area, we’re going to have to make the Dane County area a lot more appealing to employees.”
· 57% agreed that, “Making the area more attractive to employers will require reducing the cost of doing business in our area.”
With regard to education, more than nine out of ten citizens agree that schools need, “…to invest in and use technology more effectively.” Two-thirds of respondents also agreed, however, that “Unless we can achieve some cost-savings in how we manage our schools, there won’t be enough money to provide our children with the education they need.”
On the governmental front, more than ninety percent of all residents agreed that, “Before they vote on an issue, elected officials should have access to an impartial evaluation of the costs and benefits associated with the policies and regulations being proposed,” and that, “We should require that when elected officials are considering policy changes that affect large numbers of property owners — like changes in zoning laws or property rights — those affected must be informed before any action is taken.”
Finally, citizens commented on how they thought their local community was doing in six areas that affect quality of life, including: job opportunities, public K-12 education, protecting public safety, access to affordable health care, having a serious and informed commitment to economic growth, and trusting each other to do the right thing.
Their responses suggest citizens have some serious concerns. According to Jim Wood, president of Wood Communications Group, the strong negative ratings (i.e., fair and poor) outweigh the strong positive ratings (i.e., excellent and very good) in every single category except protecting public safety. When all the positive (i.e., excellent, very good and good) and all the negative (i.e., acceptable, fair and poor) ratings are examined, the negative ratings still outweigh the positives in every category except protecting public safety where the response is 72% to 27% positive, public education where the response is 54% to 43% positive, and access to affordable health care where the positive and negative ratings are tied at 48% each. And, Wood says, in every single category women, those without four-year degrees and lower-income households reported significantly higher negative responses than the population as a whole.
“It is clear that there is a strong public consensus in Dane County that the major issues confronting us at the moment are economic and that we need to focus aggressively on those issues in some pretty specific ways,” Wood said, “That said, it is hard to look at this data and not also conclude that the economy is affecting women, those without four-year degrees and lower-income households more harshly and directly than it is others in the area. The challenge going forward may lie in awakening and energizing a greater sense of urgency amongst those who agree with the consensus view, but are not experiencing the same level of stress.”
Remeschatis agreed, saying, “The Dane County Council of Public Affairs intends to energize a much needed discussion amongst our citizens and elected officials about how we can mobilize the strong public support identified by the research. The next step in that process will involve sharing this information with elected officials, business and civic leaders across the county, including, we hope, mayors, city councils, town and village boards, local chambers of commerce and regional economic groups like THRIVE.”
The Dane County Council of Public Affairs is dedicated to enhancing Dane County's business and economic climate, to promoting effective government policy for the citizens of Dane County and to providing accurate and up-to-date information so the citizens of Dane County can make informed decisions on civic matters. The Council has been conducting these activities for more than 40 years.