September 22, 2009

Elon Poll: Mecklenburg Co. residents support light rail, upbeat on economy

Widening existing roads and improving public transportation are what Mecklenburg County residents believe are the most effective ways to combat traffic congestion, according to the latest Elon University Poll, and two thirds of respondents support the expansion of light rail options throughout the county.

The poll, conducted Sept. 16-20, 2009, in cooperation with Johnson C. Smith University, surveyed 422 Mecklenburg County residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones.

Johnson C. Smith University is hosting a candidate forum on Tuesday, Sept. 22, with Elon University Poll results scheduled for use in a 7 p.m. conversation between the two major party mayoral candidates in the university’s Biddle Hall.

When asked whether they believe certain options are effective in battling traffic congestion, respondents reported the following:

Widen Existing Roads: 86 percent say it’s effective
Improve Public Transportation Services: 79 percent say it’s effective
Build More Roads: 77 percent say it’s effective
Increase the Number of Park and Ride Locations: 75 percent say it’s effective

However, 51 percent of respondents oppose the addition of more carpool or high occupancy vehicle lanes to alleviate congestion. The same percentage of people felt HOV lanes were ineffective in that regard.

Given a choice between two road construction projects – finishing the Interstate 485 Loop or making improvements to Independence Boulevard – 73 percent of respondents said the Loop should be finished first.

Sixty-six percent of respondents support the expansion of light rail throughout the county. Despite general support for public transportation, respondents were almost evenly divided on their support for a quarter-cent sales tax specifically for funding bus and light rail. Fifty percent support such a tax; 48 percent oppose one.

Economy

More than three quarters of respondents (79 percent) believe Charlotte’s economy will either stay about the same or get better in the next six months, with 85 percent of respondents believing their personal financial situation will mirror the local economy.

Three quarters (76 percent) of respondents said the economy had affected them personally. The most common ways this has happened include:

Lost Money in the Stock Market: 67 percent
Have Had Home Value Decline: 59 percent
Have Had Retirement Plan Lose More than 25% of Its Value: 46 percent

More than half of respondents (51 percent) disapproved of the federal government providing money to local banks and other financial institutions to help their situations. Sixty-three percent of respondents said the problems facing Charlotte banks had more to do with the companies’ management decisions than it did with the result of economic conditions outside of the companies’ control.

Sixty-four percent of respondents believe the Charlotte economy relies too much on the banking industry.

Schools

Nearly two-thirds of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County residents (66 percent) prefer to have schools closer to home, even if it means less diversity, rather than have students travel farther away from home to attend a more diverse school.

In general, poll respondents indicated their desire to choose schools for their children and preferred the use of a lottery (63 percent either “support” or “strongly support” this method) when too many students want to attend a specific school.

More than half of respondents (52 percent) felt students should only attend schools in their neighborhood.

Respondents also disagreed with plans that would give children from low-income neighborhoods a priority in school assignment (52 percent) or that would give students with low test scores a priority over other students in school assignments (62 percent).

Public Safety and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Police in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County received high marks in the poll. Eighty-four percent of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with CMPD’s performance. Sixty-three percent of respondents described the department’s response to public safety needs as either “good” or “very good.”

Receiving the highest marks was the police force’s treatment of citizens. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the department’s performance in that regard.

Health Care

More than half of poll respondents (61 percent) are satisfied with the quality of health care in the country, and 51 percent oppose a national insurance plan paid for by the federal government in which most medical and hospital costs for all citizens are supported.