An annual survey of Hampton Roads residents shows they are feeling better about the region than last year.
The Life in Hampton Roads survey conducted by Old Dominion University’s Social Science Research Center showed confidence in the region’s living conditions have rebounded from a 21.3 percentage-point drop last year.
For the third straight year, the center conducted a telephone survey to gauge opinion on a variety of local issues, ranging from transportation (including light rail) to the environment to crime.
Positive perceptions about the region’s quality of life dropped from 80.5 percent in the 2010 survey to 59.2 percent last year.
In this year’s poll, however, that figure bounced back, with 68.4 percent of the residents surveyed rating the quality of life in the region as either “excellent” or “good.” In addition, 85.3 percent also rated the quality of life in their neighborhoods as excellent or good.
The survey’s results were based on 762 interviews with randomly selected residents of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth and Suffolk between June 2 and Aug. 10.
Respondents were asked to provide a reason as to why they rated the quality of life in Hampton Roads as they did. Those who responded “good” or “excellent” often cited the variety of things to do in the area, such as cultural and recreational events.
Other common responses were that the quality of life in Hampton Roads is better compared to other areas of the country; that there are adequate employment and job opportunities; and that the area is relatively safe. Those who rated the quality of life as “poor” or “fair” often cited unemployment or lack of jobs; issues regarding crime or the police; and traffic congestion.
When asked to rate economic conditions in Hampton Roads, the 2012 survey respondents were relatively optimistic compared to previous years. In the current-year survey, 62.2 percent indicated that economic conditions are either “fair” or “poor,” compared with 75.6 percent in 2011 and 66.5 percent in 2010.
The perception of the Hampton Roads economic situation was not rated as low as the perception of the U.S. economy as a whole, however: 84.2 percent responded “fair” or “poor” in 2012, compared with 90 percent in 2011, and 86.6 percent in 2010, to the question about the country’s economic status.
Questions regarding neighborhoods and crime found that 88.7 percent strongly agreed or agreed that they were satisfied with the police in general. Additionally, 78.8 percent of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that local police were doing a good job in working with residents to solve neighborhood problems. Only 6 percent of respondents stated that in the past 12 months they or a member of their household had been a victim of a serious crime.
Among other interesting findings from this year’s survey was the “depth of support for the extension of light rail.
Approximately 90 percent of respondents indicated they would like to see the area’s light rail system extended. The top three expansion destinations given were: Virginia Beach oceanfront (75.3 percent), Virginia Beach Town Center (58 percent) and the Norfolk Naval Base (55.7 percent).
Asked how expansion should be funded, respondents gave the following answers: increase the sales tax (22.6 percent); borrow money (19.2 percent); and increase the fuel tax (10.1 percent). Thirty percent of the respondents specified something “other” and 17.9 percent replied, “don’t know.”
Since the debut of The Tide, 20.2 percent of respondents said they had ridden on it, but only 2.3 percent said they had ridden the system more than once a week during the six-month period prior to the survey.
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