Election Day Exit Poll Examines Voter’s Thoughts on City Initiatives

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Thursday January 12, 2017

This is the second in a series of articles from the November Exit Poll conducted by Saint Michael’s Professor Vince Bolduc’s class on a variety of city topics.

The November 8 Exit Poll asked voters about various city initiatives—from City Center, to ratings of the schools and public priorities. There were also questions about airport issues, building a City/UVM arena, and whether or not it is time to consider a mayoral system of governance. The 36 interviewers from the college and South Burlington High School asked 50 questions of 572 voters who took part in the survey. The first article in the series (The Other Paper, January 5, 2017) focused on voter characteristics and where they get their local news. The current article focuses on the ratings that voters give to city programs and initiatives.

Voters were asked to rate the schools and the city’s recreational programming as either “excellent,” “very good,” “fair,” or “poor.” The schools gained the highest ratings from voters, followed by recreational programs for children and the young. The school question asked, “In general, how well do you think the schools serve the K-12 student population?” 36 percent of respondents chose the “excellent” option, followed by another 42 percent who said “very good.” Only 14 percent rated the schools as “poor.” Voters who reported higher levels of education were the most likely to give the schools the highest rating.

The question about recreational programming for children and the young found that 29 percent rated the programs as “excellent” and another 46 percent chose “very good,” but programming for the other age groups was less well known and typically received relatively few of the highest ratings. As can be seen in the accompanying chart, programming for both working age adults and the retired did not receive excellent ratings from more than one in ten voters. Ratings of “poor” were close to zero for every program.

Interviewers also asked respondents to rate the recent progress that the city has been making on two high priority items identified in the Comprehensive Plan over the past two to three years, “affordable housing” and “a transportation system with better walking and biking connections.” Voters were not as generous in their praise of these initiatives. Only three percent of voters said that the city had made “excellent” progress on affordable housing and only 18 percent rated progress as “very good.” 45 percent rated the progress as “fair” and 16 percent said “poor.”

Progress was seen as marginally better on fostering “a transportation system with better walking and hiking connections.” The ratings on this item were five percent excellent, 34 percent very good, 41 percent fair, and 12 percent poor. It was notable that older voters and those who told us they supported the TIF vote were more generous in their ratings of these two initiatives than were others.

A separate set of evaluation questions pertaining to the airport was asked only of voters in the Chamberlin voting district. On balance, these voters did not have clear and consistent reactions to whether or not “communications and relations” between the city, the neighborhood, and the airport had changed greatly over the past three years. About 23 percent of voters told us that communications had improved over the past three years, both between the neighborhood and the city and the neighborhood and the airport. The majority of respondents felt that either relations had not changed or that they were unsure about the direction of change. One of every five respondents told us that communications and relations between the neighborhood and the airport had worsened.

89 percent of voters in this precinct felt that “the city should attempt to play a more active role in future discussions between the airport and the FAA.”

The next article in this series will focus on how voters prioritize various initiatives facing the city, including City Center, attracting business to South Burlington, and the preservation of open land. A presentation of all the data will be made at the city council meeting on January 17.

SOURCE: Vince Bolduc, PhD, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Saint Michael’s College