Center for Community Studies Releases Results of 2016 Lewis County Survey

The Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College released the findings of the 10th Annual Lewis County Survey of the Community at a meeting of the Lewis County Board of Legislators on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. 

The survey is an inventory of the attitudes and opinions of a representative sample of Lewis County adult residents, and has been completed by the Center each October in the county since 2007. The primary goal of the survey is to collect data regarding quality of life issues of importance to local citizens to help local leadership make data-informed decisions.  A similar study has been completed annually by the Center for Community Studies in Jefferson County since 2000, and in St. Lawrence County since 2015. The sponsors of these annual surveys of the North Country communities are the Northern New York Community Foundation and the Development Authority of the North Country, who both provide financial support to assist in the funding of these projects. “The Jefferson County Community Survey for many years has provided useful data about the attitudes and conditions in the county that can assist in economic development efforts,” said Development Authority of the North Country Executive Director James W. Wright. “As a regional organization, we felt it was important that similar data be collected and made available for St. Lawrence and Lewis counties to use in their initiatives.”

Working under the supervision of the Center for Community Studies research staff, statistics students at the College completed 398 telephone interviews on both the landline and cellular phones of Lewis County adult residents on the evenings of October 24-26, 2016, resulting with an approximate margin of error of ±5.6%.

Highlights of the 2016 Lewis County survey include:

Among the annually-tracked community indicators:

  • Lewis County residents continue to be very positive in their assessment of the “Overall Quality of Life” in the county, with 81% rating this as “Excellent or Good”, and only 2% rating as “Poor”.
  • The attributes of Lewis County that residents perceive most positively are the “Quality of K-12 Education”, with 85% rating this as “Excellent or Good”, and only 3% rating as “Poor”; and “Quality of the Environment”, with 83% rating this as “Excellent or Good”, and only 3% rating as “Poor”.
  • Residents are most concerned with the “Availability of Good Jobs” locally, with 43% rating this community indicator as “Poor”, however, recent improvement has been found in residents’ perceptions of this community indicator as evidenced by over 57% of participants perceiving “Availability of Good Jobs” as “Poor” as recently as in 2011.
  • When asked to identify the best aspect of living in Lewis County, by far the most common response is “the people, and the peaceful friendly small town atmosphere” (55%).  When asked to identify the main drawback of living in Lewis County, the most common response is “employment issues and lack of jobs” (29%).

Resident opinions regarding several local Lewis County issues:

  • For the first time in ten years of community surveying in Lewis County a set of five potential community issues were posed to participants.  For each issue participants were asked their perceived severity of the issue in their community, and whether or not they had been personally impacted in the past 12 months by that issue. “Heroin or other opiate abuse” was by far the most commonly perceived major issue for the community (cited by 62%), while “criminal acts” was the least (cited by only 26%).  When asked the personal impact, “mental illness” and “poverty” are the most commonly cited issues that have impacted participants, their family, or close friends (each cited by 26%), with “heroin or other opiate abuse” cited by almost one-in-four participants (23%).
  • Lewis County residents are quite satisfied with the quality of the roads in the county, with 66% rating as “Excellent or Good” while only 10% rating the roads as “Poor”.  About 40% of participants believe that the amount of funding that the County spends on roadways should be increased while only 5% feel this level of funding should be decreased.
  • By almost a four-to-one ratio, Lewis County residents are more likely to express the opinion that more County and town roads should be opened to ATV use, than to believe that fewer roads should be open (51% to 14%, respectively)
  • Lewis County residents tend to agree that their local elected county officials represent their concerns effectively – 57% agree that their concerns are effectively represented (rate was 51% in 2015).
  • Almost one-half of respondents believe that towns and villages in the county should consider consolidation with their neighboring towns or villages (48%), however, this support rate is tremendously lower than 76% found in both 2009 and 2010 when last surveyed.
  • Lewis County adults express very strong support for the notion that school districts in Lewis County should work together to share similar services, with 92% in support.  Residents are very evenly divided in their support versus opposition for the notion that school districts in Lewis County should consider consolidation with their neighboring school districts, with 44% supporting and 47% in opposition.
  • The vast majority of Lewis County residents continue to agree that the presence of Fort Drum in the local area improves the overall quality of life for the residents, with 78% agreeing with this positive quality-of-life impact, and only 11% disagreeing, representing a tremendous increase in perception of the positive impact of Fort Drum locally over the past decade (these rates were 67% and 24%, respectively, in 2007). 

The entire survey, including a summary of the results and the complete survey instrument, is available online.

For more information, please contact Mr. Joel LaLone, Research Director at the Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College, 315-786-2264.