Jefferson County residents reflect on impacts of COVID-19 in annual survey

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — The results of an annual survey have been released to the North Country.

On June 15, at a General Services Committee meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, the Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College released the findings of the 22nd Annual Jefferson County Survey of the Community.

The Center reported that highlights of the 2021 survey included changes in quality-of-life issues, opinions on cell phone service, sexual harassment training, taxes, COVID-19 vaccinations, police reform, and COVID-19 impacts in the region.

A full summary of survey highlights, provided by the Center for Community Studies, is included below:

Quality-of-Life Community Indicators in Jefferson County that had “notably different” results in 2021:

  • 69% of participants rated “Access to Higher Education” as “Excellent or Good”, the most positively rated community indicator among the 13 studied in 2021.
  • 66% of participants rated “Health Care Access” as “Excellent or Good”, the highest percentage ever found for this indicator
  • In 2021 the following three indicators had their least positive results ever found
    • Availability of Behavioral Health Services:” 21% of participants rated as “Poor”
    • “Availability of Childcare:” 18% rated as “Poor”
    • “County Government:” 17% rated as “Poor”

Personal Opinions Regarding Statewide and Local Community Issues

  • 82% of participants agreed that “Legislation should be passed to ensure good cell phone service and internet access for rural New York State residents much like the way they provided electricity in rural areas in the 1930s”
  • 61% of participants disagreed that “With required sexual harassment training for all workers in New York State, sexual harassment is not a major issue”
  • 58% of participants agreed that “New York State should raise the taxes of the state’s highest income earners to maintain current state services rather than cutting some of the current services”
  • 56% of participants agreed that “COVID-19 vaccinations should be required for college students taking courses in person on college campuses in New York State”
  • 53% of participants agreed that “Police reform in New York State is needed to reduce unnecessary use of lethal force and race-based bias and to track patterns of profiling based on race and ethnicity”
  • 52% of participants disagreed that “Small businesses should be subject to market conditions and should not be protected by government funding”
  • 47% of participants disagreed that “Local zoning boards should pass zoning ordinances to prevent the legal sale of marijuana in my town, city, or village”
  • 44% of participants disagreed that “Currently each county in New York State has its own jail; for economic reasons it would be a good idea for rural counties to share a single jail”

Personal Finance Solutions

  • 61% stated that their personal financial situation has remained the same in the past year
  • 17% stated their personal financial situation has improved over the past year
  • 19% indicate that their personal financial situation has gotten worse over the past year

Optimism on a local, national level

  • Locally
    • 41% believe that “things in the county are headed in the right direction”
    • 26% believe “things in the county are headed in the wrong direction”
  • Statewide
    • 22% believe “things in New York State are headed in the right direction”
    • 55% believe “things in New York State are headed in the wrong direction”
  • Nationally
    • 26% believe “things in the country area headed in the right direction”
    • 50% believe that things are headed in the wrong direction”

 Perceived Current Severity of COVID-19 as an Issue Facing the United States

For the past two iterations of this annual survey participants were asked to identify the largest issue currently facing our nation and a dramatic shift has transpired between 2020 and 2021.  In 2020, the most common response was “Coronavirus” at 45%, followed by “Jobs and the Economy” at 23%.  Results almost exactly reversed in 2021 with a current most common response of “Jobs and the Economy” at 39%, followed by “Coronavirus” at 21%.

Center for Community Studies, Jefferson Community College

This survey has been conducted annually since 2000 and determines the attitudes and opinions of a representatives sample of Jefferson County adult residents. According to JCC, the primary goal of the survey is to collect data regarding quality-of-life issues of importance to local residents.

To determine these issues, a mixed-mode sampling design was employed to complete a total of 503 interviews. Students completed 188 telephone interviews on both a landline and cell phones. An additional 251 surveys were completed online by Jefferson County adults after random opt-in email invitations. Also, in April, 64 residents were intercept-sampled on Fort Drum.

The Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College also conducts similar studies in Lewis County and St. Lawrence County. Both neighboring counties were last surveyed in October 2020.

Funding for the annual Jefferson County survey is provided by Jefferson Community College, the Northern New York Community Foundation, the Development Authority of the North Country, and CarFreshner Corporation.

The entire final report can be read on the Jefferson Community College website.

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