Vol. 8, No. 14
April 6-12, 2000
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From Tax Cap to Recycling, How We Think

Since 1995, the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College has held up a mirror to reflect citizens’ thinking.

Sometimes, public opinion polls are political tools. Zealous groups pay pollsters to frame questions to obtain desired results. Politicians short on backbone base their candidacies on surveys and even use a trick called ‘push polls’ to deceive us into voting one way or another.

But at Anne Arundel, Dan Nataf instructs his students in scrupulous surveys. But year by year, their job gets harder, as citizens erect new barriers to all sorts of telephone intrusion into their homes.

The new poll, which came out last week, once again tells us a lot about ourselves. We know that in Anne Arundel County, our biggest single concern is growth. That hasn’t changed much for over two years. Elected officials had better take note now, for they’ll pay at election time if they drop their guards against unwise development or if they fail to set aside land for our future.

Some of the other findings this time are even more revealing:

  • Tax cap. Just 37 percent of people know that voters in Anne Arundel passed an amendment to the county charter in 1992 that places a cap on the increase of property taxes to 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation.

    This number is fascinating because it suggests that the forces who want to repeal the cap in order to bolster county services could at least find an open mind should they proceed with a campaign. In the past, the survey has found solid opposition to repealing the cap; this spring, Nataf and his students did not ask people what they thought.

  • Recycling. Nearly two-thirds of the people in our county say they recycle bottles, cans and paper “a lot.” As Nataf noted, there’s two ways to look at this finding: People know they ought to recycle and they’re doing it. But if they think they’re doing a good job, there may not be willingness to improve.

  • Internet. We were surprised to hear that near two-thirds of those responding to the poll said they have an Internet account at home. About one percent more of us every month are getting wired to the Web, thereby opening up a new world to our families. We’re likely to look back on this period in time as a revolution in global communications.

The arrival of year 2000 federal census forms brings up lots of fears about opening personal lives to public scrutiny. Here we see the other side of an issue: How private lives add up to a collective picture of who in this changing world we are.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly