In 8th Year, Survey Provides Window into Life in Hampton Roads
October 25, 2017
By Betsy Hnath
Now in its 8th year, The Life in Hampton Roads survey continues to provide valuable insight about how the region's residents view their lives and community.
Since 2010, the Life In Hampton Roads survey, conducted by the Old Dominion University Social Science Research Center, has offered a window into the concerns, attitudes and perceptions of residents. And once again, in 2017, people generally report being happy, healthy and concerned about sea level rise.
Participants — weighted by city population, race, age, gender and phone usage (cell versus land-line) to be representative of the Hampton Roads region — answered question about economics and tourism; quality of life; crime and police; health and education; transportation; sea level rise; and politics.
Economics and Tourism:
Perceptions of economic and political conditions in Hampton Roads have remained generally the same since last year, though the number of people who believed that economic conditions were excellent or good decreased. Respondents also generally think tax revenue from tourism benefitted the area by aiding in public services and improving the local quality of life.
Quality of Life:
There was a slight increase in quality of life in Hampton Roads as a whole since 2016, and people rated the variety of arts and cultural activities higher than opportunities for employment. Some respondents reported a slightly higher quality of life in their neighborhoods this year over last year. Those rating economic conditions as fair or poor were the highest since 2014.
Crime and Police:
Control of crime and public safety are an important precondition for a high quality of life, and a significant concern among survey respondents.
In general, satisfaction with local police is high among Hampton Roads residents, but the percentage of respondents expressing satisfaction with local police has decreased every year since 2012 although the report has shown a small increase in 2016 and 2017. Satisfaction with local police, how local police treat citizens and trust of local police is fairly high among Hampton Roads residents, but the data differentiated significantly along racial lines.
This year, respondents were asked about race relations and whether or not people "like me" are treated fairly in various situations. White respondents reported people who look like them are treated fairly more than black/African-American respondents in every scenario given.
While most Hampton Roads residents were not afraid of having their home broken into, they were more fearful of it happening while they were away. The majority of respondents also indicated they believed homelessness and mental illness were a moderate or serious problem in Hampton Roads.
Health and Education:
The health and education of Hampton Roads residents are vital to ensuring that the community thrives. The 2017 Life in Hampton Roads survey asked citizens about general health, certain health conditions, their child's health and opinions about local public school systems.
Hampton Roads appears to be a relatively healthy community with over 80 percent of respondents rating their own health as excellent or good, with the highest of ratings among respondents living in Virginia Beach. High blood pressure seemed to be the most reported condition among Hampton Roads residents. Over three quarters of Hampton Roads children also tend to be generally healthy (in regards to a list of conditions provided).
Schools were mainly rated excellent or good, regardless of whether or not the respondent had children. Of those who did have children, the ratings of their children's school were mainly good or excellent. Over half of respondents reported that they watched TV, videos or played computer/video games outside of school or work for more than two hours per week over the past 30 days.
Hampton Roads residents have reported fairly consistent declines in average commute times to work or school, however, this year, the reported commute time to school or work was 19.2 minutes, a slight increase over last year.
Traffic does seem to pose a problem when it comes to visiting businesses in other cities within Hampton Roads as nearly half of the respondents stated they do avoid going to different cities for business due to congestion. This was higher than the percentage of respondents who avoid visiting neighboring cities due to tolls.
Most respondents stated they didn't use a toll bridge or tunnel to get to work or school, but about 40 percent also stated they didn't intentionally avoid tolls bridges or tunnels. Of those who did avoid the tolls bridges or tunnels, they reported taking a different route to school or work to do so.
Light rail appealed to Hampton Roads residents and there were larger percentages of respondents who want it to go to Virginia Beach (both Town Center and the oceanfront) as well as Naval Station Norfolk and Norfolk International Airport.
Sea Level Rise:
Responses to questions about sea level rise have remained relatively consistent with the previous four years; however, 2017 saw an 11.5 percent increase compared to 2016 in respondents stating that flooding has increased in the last thirty years.
There was a corresponding decrease in the number of people who believe flooding has not increased in the area. Regardless of neighborhood flooding, when it came to general concerns about flooding in Hampton Roads, most people are somewhat to very concerned that sea level rise will affect them in the future.
Despite the concern, the majority of respondents (59.9 percent, the highest percentage since 2014) do not have flood insurance.
Political climate is one factor in understanding attitudes on a variety of issues.
According to the survey, the vast majority of Hampton Roads residents are registered to vote, and most consider themselves moderates. Conversely, a slightly smaller percentage of respondents identified as moderate than conservative. While Hampton Roads residents are pleased with the work of both Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, approval ratings for Donald Trump were low.
To read the report, visit the Life in Hampton Roads website.