The Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College released the findings of the 12th Annual Lewis County Survey of the Community at a meeting of the Lewis County Board of Legislators on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
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 12th 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 426 telephone interviews on both the landline and cellular phones of Lewis County adult residents on the evenings of October 29-30, 2018, resulting with an approximate margin of error of ±3.8% after weighting sample survey results toward Lewis County population characteristics.
Highlights of the 2018 Lewis County survey include:
1. Attitudes Concerning the Local Lewis County Economy
Since 2017, many local community quality-of-life indicators that are related to personal and local economics have resulted with the most positive results measured in 12 years of surveying in the county. For “Availability of Good Jobs” the rate of responding “Excellent or Good” has reached an all-time high in the county of 26% in 2018 (was only 10% in 2011). For “Overall State of the Local Economy”, with very significant improvement found between 2013-2018, the 2018 rate of “Excellent or Good” has now reached the all-time high of 45% (more than double earlier rates that have been as low as 19% in 2013).
2. Personal Financial Situations
Currently 83% of residents indicate that their personal financial situation has remained the same or improved in the past year (19% improved, 64% remained same), while only 16% indicate that this situation has gotten worse. For the second time ever, a greater percentage of residents responded with “gotten better” than “gotten worse” (19% to 16%, respectively). As a comparison, in 2008 the rates were – only 12% responded “gotten better”, while 40% responded “gotten worse”.
3. Community Development in Lewis County
Four types of community development of assets were studied in Lewis County for the first time in 2018 (community parks, downtown parking, main streets, and water and wastewater systems). The largest level of support was expressed for “improved water and wastewater systems” as the most important community asset to improve in the future (45% cited this as the most important).
4. Economic Development in Lewis County
Four types of potential economic development initiatives were studied in Lewis County for the first time in 2018 (tourism/recreation marketing; more ATV/snowmobile trails; more walking trails; acquiring public access to railroad corridors). There is strong majority support evident for each of these initiatives, with the largest support (82%) expressed for development of more public pedestrian walking trails, and 81% support for tourism and recreation related development and marketing. To obtain public input for future decisions regarding the Climax building in Lowville, residents were asked how they prefer it to be used, and by a wide margin, “split into smaller sections” is the most supported option. Three possible uses of taxpayer funds to create types of infrastructure needed for new business growth in Lewis County were also studied for the first time in 2018. There is very strong support evident for improving water systems, and further, Lewis County residents clearly prefer that new businesses construct their own buildings more than having the County construct and lease buildings to new businesses.
5. Personal Opinions Regarding Community and Societal Issues
For the first time in 12 years of surveying quality-of-life and local governance issues in Lewis County, the Center for Community Studies included a section of eleven survey items that relate to personal opinions of residents regarding issues that typically are of great importance to residents of any community and society. The issues studied ranged from healthcare funding, to social security, to the role of government, to Presidential approval, to gun control and rights, to abortion, to same-sex relationships, as well as other issues/topics that are typically commonly discussed and debated in our society. The goal was to learn what the overall predominate opinions are of the Lewis County adult community. No political stance or objective was or will be taken, of course, by the independent and unbiased researchers at the Center for Community Studies. The results are summarized in the Summary of Findings, with very interesting themes of those which are typically considered as conservative stances being dominant among county adult residents at times, while those which are typically considered as more moderate or somewhat liberal stances being dominant among county adult residents at other times.
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.
A summary of study findings will be available on March 5, 2019 on the Center for Community Studies section of the Jefferson Community College website, www.sunyjefferson.edu/ccs. The entire study final report of findings, including the analysis and summary of the results and the complete survey instrument, is available by contacting Mr. Joel LaLone, Research Director at the Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College, 315-786-2264, firstname.lastname@example.org.