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Center for Community Studies Releases Findings of 11th Annual Lewis County Survey

The Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College released the findings of the 11th Annual Lewis County Survey of the Community at a meeting of the Lewis County Board of Legislators on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. 

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, and as a result this study provides an annual “snapshot” of life in Lewis County.  Additionally, the analysis of the 11th Annual Survey data provides an information-rich “motion-picture” of changes in the lives of county residents over the past decade when trends are investigated through comparing with earlier-year results.  Further, 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, therefore, regional North Country county-level comparisons are also addressed. 

Working under the supervision of the Center for Community Studies research staff, statistics students at the College completed 447 telephone interviews on both the landline and cellular phones of Lewis County adult residents on the evenings of October 24-25, 2017, resulting with an approximate margin of error of ±3.7% after weighting sample survey results toward Lewis County population characteristics.

Highlights of the 2017 Lewis County survey include:

  • In 2017 many local community quality-of-life indicators that are related to personal and local economics resulted with the most positive results ever measured in 11 years of surveying in the county.  Although there remains much room for improvement, residents feel better than ever (at least since year 2007) regarding – the cost of energy, real estate taxes, the overall state of the local economy, and the availability of good jobs.  As one example, in 2011 among local residents 57% rated the availability of good jobs locally as “Poor”, while in 2017 this rate is only 34%, the lowest rate measured in 11 years of surveying. 
  • Lewis County residents believe that tourism is a very important component of the local economy and as such deserves marketing and financial support from the County.  When asked whether they perceive tourism as important to the county economy 92% respond with “Very or Somewhat Important” (66% indicate “Very”).  Further, by more than a nine-to-one ratio, Lewis County residents believe that the County should financially support marketing and promotions intended to increase local tourism economic impact (83% support, only 9% oppose).
  • The Maple Ridge Wind Farm went online in Lewis County in 2006.  Survey questions measuring public sentiment regarding possible future expansions of the wind farm have been asked in this Annual Survey in each of 2007, 2008, and again in this 2017 study.  Residents are overwhelmingly in support of further expansion, with rates of responding “should expand” during these three studies of 77%, 79%, and 78%, respectively.  The “should not expand” rates during these three studies have been 16%, 14%, and currently is measured at 12%.  In 2017 a further attitude question was posed regarding wind power and the result is that by approximately a two-to-one ratio residents are more likely to consider the spreading of wind farm revenues around to other communities that are not the actual hosts of the wind turbines as “fair” rather than “unfair” (58% to 31%, respectively). 
  • Continuing the theme illustrated above, when local residents are asked the largest issue facing the residents of Lewis County, in 2017 responses have dramatically changed from that which were recorded 3-4 years ago among county residents.  There has been a tremendous shift from economic concern to a concern with the current local drug epidemic.  For example, in 2013 among county residents 61% cited the “jobs and the economy” as the largest local issue – a rate that has halved to 32% in 2017, and a rate that no longer represents the most commonly cited issue.  During this same time frame the rate of citing “drugs” as the largest issue facing residents of Lewis County has increased from 4% to 40%.
  • Currently 90% of residents indicate that their personal financial situation has remained at least the same or improved in the past year (21% improved, 69% remained same), while only 9% indicate that this situation has gotten worse.  This 90% rate is by far the greatest found in ten years of posing this question to adults in the county, and represents a 10% increase from that which was found in 2016 in the county. 
  • Overwhelmingly the results show that in 2017 Lewis County residents perceive the continuing presence of Fort Drum as having several positive impacts upon local residents.  Of particular note is that almost nine-in-ten residents agree with each of: “local community leadership should continue to be actively involved in efforts that ensure the long term viability of Fort Drum” (87%), and “Fort Drum is a vital part of the economy in the North Country by providing significant job creation”(86%).

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

The sponsors of these annual surveys of the North Country communities are Jefferson Community College, the Northern New York Community Foundation, and the Development Authority of the North Country, who all provide financial support to assist in the funding of these projects.  

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