Vol. 10, No. 13

March 28 - April 3, 2002

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What People Think: Terror Concerns Subside, Development Worries Rise

Polls can be aggravating.

There’s the poll that’s not really a poll at all but an attempt to sell you something over the phone by starting out with a few innocent questions.

Then there’s the barrage of tracking surveys at election time that measure sentiments on a nightly basis and that ultimately have a bearing on the outcome by telling us over and over who’s winning.

But some polls are beneficial in presenting a mirror of what we’re thinking and perhaps a map of where we’re heading.

One such poll is the twice-yearly survey by Anne Arundel Community College’s Center for the Study of Local Issues. The latest, released last week, has findings that are both striking and troubling.

Last fall, for obvious reasons, terrorism was the biggest worry on people’s minds in Anne Arundel. Eighteen percent counted it as the most important problem on the horizon and one in four believed an attack locally was not just possible but likely.

But in the new survey, taken from March 11 to 14, just one percent of randomly surveyed Anne Arundel Countians counted terrorism at the top of their worries. And more than half believe that an attack was unlikely.

Time has a way of changing attitudes toward disaster. But when it comes to development, concern just continues to mount.

In the new survey, “growth and overdevelopment” were regarded as the biggest problems facing Anne Arundel County. Add responses about traffic congestion and general environmental worries, and a clear and somewhat surprising picture emerged: in Anne Arundel County, people are more concerned about development and conservation than about education, taxes, illegal drugs and the economy — put together.

In an election year, these stark results should arrive like a two-by-four to the seat of the pants of anyone running for office.

Fortunately for those candidates not tuned in (and unfortunately for us), the poll found a fair amount of ignorance. An astounding 70 percent of people were unaware of the Small Area Planning Committees that have been meeting in the county for several years to bring citizens in on local planning for development and preservation.

Yet another disturbing finding shed light on why people were so out of touch: Thirty-eight percent said they rarely or never read newspapers.

The picture that emerged is of a large segment of Anne Arundel County that loves to complain but is too lazy to do anything about it.

As we said at the beginning, polls can be aggravating.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly