CCS Releases Results of 21st Annual Jefferson County Survey
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CCS Releases Results of 21st Annual Jefferson County Survey

Published: March 16, 2021

The Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College released the findings of the 21st Annual Jefferson County Survey of the Community at a virtual meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

The survey is an annual inventory of the attitudes and opinions of a representative sample of Jefferson County adult residents, and has been completed by the Center each April in the county from 2000 - 2019.  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Annual Survey was postponed from April 2020 until October 2020.  A similar study has been completed annually by the Center for Community Studies in Lewis County since 2007, and in St. Lawrence County since 2015.  Both of these neighboring counties were also surveyed in October 2020 in response to the pandemic.

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 Jefferson County.  Additionally, the analysis of the 21st Annual Survey data provides an information-rich “motion-picture” of changes in the lives of county residents over the past twenty-one years when trends are investigated via comparing with earlier-year results.  Current regional North Country county-level comparisons are also addressed.

A mixed-mode sampling design was employed in this study to complete a total of 587 interviews of adult residents of the county. Working under the supervision of the Center for Community Studies research staff in a virtual remote social-distanced call center, statistics students at the College completed 274 telephone interviews on both the landline and cellular phones of Jefferson County adult residents on the evenings of October 26-30, 2020.  An additional 313 surveys were completed online by Jefferson County adult residents after random email invitations to participate.  The result of this sampling of a total of 587 county residents is an approximate margin of error of ±4.4% after weighting sample survey results toward Jefferson County population characteristics.

Highlights of the 2020 Jefferson County survey include:

1. Overall Quality of Life in Jefferson County
It does not appear that the global COVID-19 pandemic has dampened the overall satisfaction that county residents continue to express with the overall quality of life in the county (67% rate as “Excellent or Good”, a rate that was 67% in 2016, 68% in 2017, 66% in 2018, and 62% in 2019).  Many other rural and outdoor related aspects of life in the county also continue to be very positively perceived, while satisfaction with local economic factors continue to be less positive, but have increased slightly since last recorded in 2019.

2. Personal Opinions Regarding Community and Societal Issues – Political Dissonance
In an attempt to better understand the communities and residents of the North Country, a series of personal political opinion survey items has been studied for the past two years.  Opinions about these societal issues have remained quite stable over this three-year time frame with the following notable majority opinions among Jefferson County Adults:   

  • 77% of participants agree that “Systemic racism and social injustice are major problems in our country that need to be addressed.”
  • 75% of participants agree that “It is all right for adults to be romantically involved with other adults of the same sex.”
  • 67% of participants agree that “Healthcare is a societal responsibility and government should ensure that good healthcare is available to all people.”
  • 67% of participants agree that “Human contribution to climate change is pretty much a proven scientific conclusion.”
  • 63% of participants agree that “To maintain and improve border security – our country should use other available technological methods and not build a physical wall along the entire US-Mexico border.”
  • 62% of participants agree that “Choosing abortion is a woman's right, and society should protect that right.”
  • 61% of participants agree that “The Second Amendment of the US Constitution protects an individual’s right to own guns, and that should not be compromised by laws such as the NYS Safe Act.”
  • 53% of participants agree that “Overall I think President Trump is good for our country.”

A portion of these dominant opinions include those which are typically considered as conservative stances, while others are those which are typically considered as more moderate or somewhat liberal stances.  The 2020 sample results regarding self-described political ideology of participants has paralleled that which has recurred virtually every year of study, with 32% identifying as “conservative”, 43% as “middle of the road”, 17% as “liberal”, and 9% “unsure.”

3. COVID-19 Pandemic – Resident Opinions and Behaviors
Residents of the county were surveyed in April 2020 as part of a locally developed and sponsored Public Health study and they were asked many items related to impact, experience, fears, expectations, and satisfactions related to the COVID-19 pandemic that was very new to our world at that time.  Several of these survey items were revisited and tracked six months later in this Jefferson County Annual Survey of the Community.  The most notable change that has emerged in this follow-up research is that satisfaction levels with response to the pandemic for each of the following three levels of government have decreased during the first six months of the pandemic: the U.S. Public Health and the CDC (satisfaction decreased from 67% in April to 64% in October), President Trump and the U.S. government (satisfaction decreased from 54% to 43%), and Governor Cuomo and the N.Y.S. Public Health (satisfaction decreased from 66% to 52%).  During this same time frame, satisfaction levels with response to the pandemic by the local Jefferson County Public Health Department have increased (satisfaction increased from 63% to 70%).

4. Personal Financial Situations
Currently 66% of residents indicate that their personal financial situation has remained the same in the past year, 13% indicate that it has improved, while 20% indicate that this situation has gotten worse.  Not unexpectedly, given the 2020 pandemic, the rate of expressing “gotten better” in 2020 (13%) is the lowest ever measured in the County (measured every year since 2008).  The rate of responding “gotten worse” is the highest observed since 2016; however, it should be noted that this rate was 20% or higher every year prior to 2016.

5. Optimism Locally, But Not So Much Nationally
Jefferson County residents are more optimistic about the “direction that things are heading” locally than nationally.  The study found that 43% of respondents believe that things in the county are headed in the right direction while only 23% believe that things are headed in the wrong direction.  On a nationwide basis the opinions are reversed, only 33% believe that things in the country are headed in the right direction while 50% believe that things are headed in the wrong direction.

6. Potential Legalization of Recreational Marijuana Use in New York State – Opinions about Growth and Sale in Jefferson County
Jefferson County adult residents strongly support both the sale (59% support, 31% oppose) and the potential for allowing farmers to grow and profit from this new industry in the county (68% support, 26% oppose).

7. Internet Access and Use in Jefferson County
Nearly all Jefferson County adult residents report that they access the Internet from home (less than 1% report to not access from home).  Many of the county residents are using the Internet to either work from home or learn remotely from home:

  • 29% of households include someone who is working at least part of their job remotely from home,
  • 24% of households include someone who is learning remotely from home at the K-12 education level, and
  • 24% of households include someone who is learning remotely from home at the college education level.

The sponsors of this Annual survey of Jefferson County 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.

The entire final report of study findings, including the analysis and summary of the results and the complete survey instrument is available online. 

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