Life seems to be getting more difficult for the residents of Santa Barbara County, an area public-opinion poll conducted by UCSB researchers reports.
Yesterday, a team of professors and graduate students at UCSB published the results of the 2010 Central Coast Survey, which asked area residents about what it’s like to live in the county based on a spectrum of issues such as land use, local agriculture and environmentalism. Out of the total 2,508 households contacted between the months of January and March, 804 telephone interviews were conducted, either in English or Spanish.
Among other results, the public survey showed that an additional 13 percent of county residents believe themselves to be in significantly worse economic standing since the last time this survey was administered.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents on the 2010 survey said their families’ fiscal strength had declined since the time of the last survey in 2008, as opposed to the 24 percent of respondents who indicated in 2008 the same negative conclusions about their families’ changed economic standing since 2007.
Under the oversight of UCSB Dean of Social Sciences Melvin Oliver, researchers from several campus departments completed the research and compiled the final report. According to Oliver, the survey provides vital information about county life and hardships.
“[The survey] is a module that can tap into the key issues that the community is grappling with,” Oliver said.
When asked to describe the main issues affecting their community, common answers ranged anywhere from affordable housing and agriculture to immigration.
David Cleveland, a member of the research team and professor of environmental studies at UCSB, focused on the agricultural aspect of the survey.
“There is a high support for agriculture among Santa Barbara County residents, and it varies almost none between north and south counties,” Cleveland said.
Cleveland said more than 80 percent of county residents showed support for the Williamson Act — which provides farmers with lower property taxes given that their land is used agriculturally — and that a similarly high percentage believe that farmers should be charged less for water.
Lauren Copeland, a graduate student in the Political Science Dept., focused on the popularity of locally-grown produce plays in the Santa Barbara community. Through research Copeland found that nearly half of those who responded to the survey buy local produce at least once a week.
“There is a strong belief in local agriculture, and many residents translate this belief into practice,” Copeland said.
Issues concerning land were not limited to farming, with the survey unveiling mixed opinions about land used for housing developments.
Garrett Glasgow, an associate professor in the political science dept., asked respondents to choose the best of three hypothetical ‘visions’ for housing development in the county. The vision for an increase in suburban, single-family houses placed significantly ahead of the first alternative plan; to discontinue building projects altogether. “Continuation of downtown urban development” was the third and lowest-scoring option, gaining only 23 percent support from those surveyed.
Political science professor Eric Smith headed a portion of the survey dedicated to environmentalism. Among other things, Smith and his research team challenged the postulation that residents of southern Santa Barbara County are more concerned with environmental issues than those residing in North county.
“They say in north county that they’re all anti-environmentalists,” Smith said. “But it turns out that south county is just slightly more environmentalist than the north.”
In fact, Copeland said, Smith’s teams’ results were some of the most shocking produced by the survey; South County residents averaged an NEP score of 36 — only three points higher than residents of North County. According to Copeland, these results were somewhat astonishing.
“The biggest surprise to emerge from the study is that there isn’t much difference between North and South County residents,” Copeland said.