October 2, 2013
10/2: Economy Top Priority for Next Westchester Executive
Business Council of Westchester County/Marist Poll
Economic concerns are top of mind for many Westchester County residents. Three in ten adults in the county — 30% — think taxes should be the top priority for the next Westchester County Executive. Jobs follows with 21%, and while education is third with 19%, 12% of adults in the county say economic development needs to be addressed. Seven percent of adults rank housing as the key issue in the county. Other issues important to Westchester County adults include poverty — 4%, crime — 3%, and transportation — 3%. Less than one percent cite race relations as the top priority for the next Westchester County Executive. Less than 1% thinks another issue should be the top priority of the next Westchester County Executive.
This poll has been conducted in partnership with the Business Council of Westchester County.
“During this evening’s county executive debate, it’s important for the voice of the public to be part of this discussion,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “This survey identifies issues Westchester residents see as top priorities for the county.”
Are Local Taxes and Fees Fair?
Given the services in their local community, Westchester County residents divide about whether or not the amount they pay in local taxes and fees is fair. Half — 50% — say the sum they pay is not fair while 48% report it is. Two percent are unsure. Among registered voters in the county, a majority — 53% — believes their local taxes and fees are unfair while 46% say the amount they pay is on target. One percent is unsure.
Homeowners are particularly displeased about the amount they pay in school and property taxes. Six in ten Westchester County homeowners — 60% — say, based on their local services, the amount they pay is not fair. 38% disagree and report the cost is fair. Two percent are unsure. Similar proportions of Westchester County registered voters who own their home share these views. 60% think the amount is fair. 39% believe it is unfair, and 1% is unsure.
Jobs Picture Concerns Most Westchester County Residents
When it comes to the jobs situation in the county, the second highest priority, nearly three in four residents — 74% — say, if they lost their job, it would be tough to find a similar position the same distance from their home. This includes 37% who think it would be very difficult and 37% who believe it would be difficult to acquire the same type of employment. However, 22% report it would not be very difficult to find a similar job while 5% say it would not be difficult at all.
Westchester County Economy on the Mend
More than six in ten adults in Westchester County — 63% — think the county’s economy is on a steady course. 21% believe it has gotten better, and 16% say it has gotten worse. There has been a sharp decline in the proportion of residents who think Westchester’s economy has gotten worse and an increase in those who think it has improved since a similar survey conducted four years ago. When The Marist Poll and Business Council of Westchester last reported this question in 2009, 55% said the economy was status quo, 12% said it had gotten better, and 33% thought it had gotten worse.
Among registered voters, 62% say the economy in the county has levelled off. 21% report it has gotten better while 17% think it has gotten worse. In 2009, 54% of registered voters countywide thought the local economy had stayed about the same, 14% said it had gotten better, and 32% reported it had gotten worse.
Residents are also more positive about the state of their personal family finances. Nearly six in ten — 58% — say their family’s financial picture will stay about the same in the coming year. 32% think their personal money matters will get better while 10% believe they will get worse. In 2009, 50% said their family’s finances would stay about the same. 27% reported their money matters would get better, and 23% thought they would get worse.
Looking at registered voters, 58% think their family finances will not change in the coming year. This compares with 31% who say they will get better and 11% who report they will get worse. In 2009, 50% thought their financial picture would be status quo, 25% said it would get better while 25% believed it would get worse.
Almost Two-Thirds Think County is On Track
64% of county residents think Westchester is in moving in the right direction. 24% believe it is going in the wrong direction, and 12% are unsure. Among registered voters, 63% say Westchester County is on course while 26% report it has fallen off the track. 11% are unsure.
Most Adults Give Neighborhood High Marks
91% of Westchester County residents rate their neighborhood highly. This includes a slim majority — 51% — who says their neighborhood is an excellent place to live and 40% who report it is a good place to live. Six percent call their neighborhood fair while 3% think poorly of their neighborhood. There are racial differences. Most white residents — 96% — consider their neighborhood to either an excellent or good place to live. This compares with 88% of Latinos and 68% of African American residents who say the same.
Overall, nearly all Westchester County residents — 96% — are satisfied with the county as a place to live. Included here are 41% who are very satisfied and 55% who are satisfied. A mere 3% are not very satisfied with the county, and 2% are not satisfied at all.
Nearly Seven in Ten Residents View County as Unaffordable
But, is Westchester County affordable for the average family? 69% of adults do not think it is. This includes 57% who say it is not very affordable and 12% who report it is not affordable at all. Just 32% believe the county is affordable. Included here are just 2% who think it is very affordable and 30% who believe it is affordable.
How many residents plan to move out of the county in the next five years? While seven in ten — 70% — say they plan to stay, almost one in four — 24% — expects to move someplace else. Six percent are unsure.
Among those who plan to move out of the county in the next five years, 48% cite economic reasons for their relocation. 43% of those who want to leave the county mention non-economic factors for their interest in moving. Among all Westchester County residents, regardless of whether or not they are planning to leave the county, 50% of residents say non-economic reasons would be the catalyst for them to relocate. These reasons include the desire to be closer to their family and friends — 19%, a different climate — 18%, better schools — 7%, crime and safety — 4%, and the proximity of shopping and entertainment — 2%. However, 43% would move away because of economic reasons such as the lack of affordability — 32%, to be closer to jobs — 6%, and taxes — 4%. Eight percent of adults cite another reason they would relocate.
In Case of Emergency… Plurality Approves of County’s Disaster Preparedness
If Westchester County were to face a disaster such as a terror attack, hurricane, or earthquake, 44% of residents think the county has an adequate response plan. 37%, however, say the county does not have an adequate plan for potential disasters. Nearly one in five residents — 19% — don’t know enough about it to have an opinion on the county’s disaster preparedness.