Tracking Pixel

Jefferson Community College Website

Center for Community Studies Releases Jefferson County Survey Results

The Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College released the findings of the 17th Annual Jefferson County Survey of the Community at the General Services Committee meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.

The annual survey is an inventory of the attitudes, opinions, and behaviors of a representative sample of Jefferson County adult residents, with the interviews completed every year in the month of April. The primary goal of the survey is to collect data regarding quality of life issues of importance to local citizens, and as a result this study provides an annual “snapshot” of life in the county.  Additionally, the analysis of the 17th Annual Survey data provides an information-rich “motion-picture” of changes in the lives of county residents over the past two decades when trends are investigated through comparing with earlier-year results.

Working under the training and supervision of the Center for Community Studies research staff, students at the College completed 416 telephone interviews on the evenings of April 11-12, 2016.

Highlights of the 2016 survey include:

  • The majority of Jefferson County adult residents continue to view the quality of life in the region as very positive, with a current rate of 67% of surveyed residents reporting that the overall quality of life in the area is “Excellent or Good”, while currently only 5% believe the overall quality of life in the area is “Poor”, which is the lowest rate of “Poor” found in seventeen years of surveying.
  • There has been a steady positive trend in perceptions of both healthcare access and healthcare quality in Jefferson County between 2009 and 2016, and in 2016 both of these local healthcare characteristics received their most positive results ever found since first investigated in 2000 – with 54% rating healthcare access as “Excellent or Good” (with only 13% rating as “Poor”), and 53% rating healthcare quality as “Excellent or Good” (with only 16% rating as “Poor”). 
  • The percentage of Jefferson County residents perceiving the quality of K-12 education positively has increased dramatically between 2015 and 2016, from 49% rating the quality of K-12 education as “Excellent or Good” to a current rate of 66%.
  • In 2016, only 27% of residents rated “The Economy and Jobs” as the largest issue facing our nation right now, down from a peak of 81% rating this as the largest issue in 2009.  The issues which became much more commonly cited in 2016 than in past years include Government/Leadership at 19%, increased from earlier results of only 3%, and Drugs at 10%, increased from 0% in 2015.
  • The recent improvement in satisfaction with availability of housing is the most dramatic and significant improvement among the collection of 22 quality-of-life variables measured in this annual study.  A very significant increase in “Excellent or Good” (and decrease in “Poor”) has been found between 2012 and 2016. The 2016 rate of 9% responding “Poor” is the lowest ever measured, and less than one-fourth of the 41% rate found in 2006.  The rate of responding “Excellent or Good” has increased from 37% in 2005 to a current rate of 66%.
  • One of the most striking differences found in the 2016 Annual Survey is the perception of the Downtown of Watertown.  In the past year the rate of perceiving the Downtown of Watertown as “Excellent or Good” has decreased from 47% to 25%, while at the same time the rate of responding “Poor” increased from 18% to 26%.
  • For the first time in seventeen years of community surveying in Jefferson County a set of five potential community issues were posed to participants.  For each issue participants were asked their perceived severity of the issue in their community, and whether or not they had been personally impacted in the past 12 months by that issue. “Heroin or other opiate abuse” was by far the most commonly perceived major issue for the community (cited by 65%), while “mental illness” was the least (cited by only 26%).  Conversely, when asked the personal impact, responses reverse, with “mental illness” the most commonly cited issue that has impacted participants, their family, or close friends (cited by 27%), and “heroin or other opiate abuse” the second-least cited response (cited by only 18%, with only “criminal acts” cited less often).
  • When asked what impact residents believe that the recent increase in the minimum wage to an eventual $12.50 per hour will have on them personally, the most common response, reported by approximately one-half of participants (49%) is “neither improve or worsen”, while among those that believe the increased minimum wage will, in fact, impact them personally, participants are more likely to believe that it will “worsen” than “improve” their situation (23% vs. 17%, respectively).
  • By an eight-to-one ratio Jefferson County residents are far more likely to believe that the implementation of the Common Core Standards in New York schools has worsened public education than has improved public education (47% vs. 6%, respectively). 
  • Residents of Jefferson County continue to be most likely to indicate that their family’s personal financial situation has “Stayed the same” over the past 12 months, with 56% of the participants indicating this sentiment.  Currently 81% of residents indicate that their personal financial situation has remained at least the same or improved in the past year (25% improved, 56% remained same).  Very notably, the “Getting Worse” rate in 2016 is the lowest ever found in nine years of study (18%).

The entire final report for this study, including a summary of the 2016 Jefferson County results and the exact survey instrument used this year, trend analysis of the Jefferson County results from 2000-2016, and comparisons to results of similar recent annual surveys completed by the Center in each of Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties, is available on the Center for Community Studies section of the Jefferson Community College website

The Development Authority of the North Country and the Northern New York Community Foundation partner with Jefferson Community College in providing financial sponsorship of all three annual surveys completed by the Center for Community Studies in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence Counties.

For more information, please contact Research Director
Joel F. LaLone, Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College, 315-786-2264.