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Life in Hampton Roads Survey No. 1: Quality of Life

The Social Science Research Center (SSRC) at Old Dominion University recently completed data collection for the 10th annual Life in Hampton Roads (LIHR) telephone survey. The purpose of the survey was to gain insight into residents' perceptions of the quality of life in the region. As in previous years, the project also investigated attitudes and perceptions of citizens regarding topics of local interest such as transportation and traffic, perceptions of police, health, community, education, work, experiences with flooding, and other issues. These are presented independently or as trending with previous years when appropriate. This year, the SSRC also partnered with the city of Chesapeake, which provided additional questions for the survey. The SSRC completed interviews with 882 Hampton Roads residents via landline and cell phones.

Release No. 1 focuses on regional quality of life.

Overall Quality of Life

The 2019 survey continues to show a generally good regional quality of life, though there has been a very slow decline over the past couple of years. The majority of those interviewed (68.2%) reported that the overall quality of life is excellent or good, while 31.3% found it to be fair or poor. The portion of respondents rating regional quality of life as good or excellent is slightly lower than last year (70.1%).

Quality of Life in Hampton Roads

Over the last several years, quality of life has remained relatively consistent in Hampton Roads. In 2015, 72.9% of respondents rated the quality of life in Hampton Roads as excellent or good. In 2019, there was a slight decrease in the percentage (68.2%). Focusing on the other end of the spectrum, ratings of the quality of life as poor has been consistently low (always less than 5%) and saw a slight decrease from 4.2% in 2018 to 3.8% in 2019.

Neighborhood and City Quality of Life Ratings

The survey examined subregional measures of neighborhood and city quality of life and also examined relevant measures at the city level. Although such analyses have value, they should also be understood in the context of the much greater uncertainty associated with inferences from sub-population analyses. The maximum margin of error, including design effects from weighting, for the entire sample of LIHR is 4.1% (95% confidence level). Thus, only quite large differences between subsample groups are statistically significant and the margin of error for individual cities will be much larger.

City Quality of Life

Respondents were asked to rate the quality of life for their cities. Seventy-one percent of respondents reported the quality of life in their city as excellent or good (17.9% and 52.7%, respectively). Another 28.7% rated the quality of life in their city as either fair (23.3%) or poor (5.4%).

Perceptions of city quality of life varied significantly. At the higher end, 89.7% of respondents from Chesapeake rated the quality of life in their city as good or excellent, as did 86.9% of respondents from Virginia Beach. Suffolk was slightly lower (72.4%). Hampton and Newport News ranked somewhat lower, at 60% and 56%, respectively. Finally, Norfolk and Portsmouth ranked substantially (51.9% and 37.6%, respectively). Norfolk and Portsmouth both saw large decreases in respondents rating the quality of life in their city as excellent or good from last year's survey. Norfolk decreased from 63.9% and Portsmouth from 46.7% (drops of 14% and 9%, respectively). Although the rankings within the top group (Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and Suffolk) and the bottom group (Norfolk and Portsmouth) cannot be known with statistical confidence, we can be confident that the top group and bottom group are different, and the observed rankings are broadly consistent with patterns we have seen in previous survey years.

Neighborhood Quality of Life

Overall, respondents reported very high ratings for quality of life in their neighborhood. The majority of respondents (82.4%) rated the quality of life in their neighborhood as either excellent or good. In contrast, only 17.2% rated the neighborhood quality of life as fair or poor. Overall, quality of life was rated the highest (excellent and good) for respondent's neighborhood (82.4%), followed by city of residence (70.6%) and finally Hampton Roads as a whole (68.2%).

Across years, a strong majority of respondents rated the quality of neighborhood life as positive. While the total percentage of respondents who rated the quality as good or excellent remained similar to previous years, there was a considerable increase in respondents who rated the quality as excellent (38.4%) compared to last year (29.9%). Additionally, 2019 saw a slight decrease in the percentage rating the quality as poor (2%) compared to 2.6% in 2018.

Respondents were also asked a series of questions about different aspects of their neighborhood. The majority of residents either strongly agreed (33.5%) or agreed (49.3%) that people in their neighborhood are willing to help their neighbors (82.8%). While the degree of trust for neighbors was lower, the majority still either strongly agreed (26.2%) or agreed (47%) that people in their neighborhood could be trusted (73.2%). Residents also reported that people in their neighborhood get along with one another as 52.2% disagreed and 28.7% strongly disagreed with the statement: "People in my neighborhood don't get along with each other."

Respondents were asked to rate overall race relations in Hampton Roads. Half of respondents rated race relations as fair (49.4%) and another 10.9% rated race relations as poor. On the other hand, only 4.9% rated race relations as excellent with another 32% rating race relations as good.

Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with a variety of statements about how they are treated in various situations while working and living in Hampton Roads. More than half agreed or strongly agreed that "people like me" are treated in a fair, non-discrimatory manner when applying for a loan or mortgage (58.2%), renting a house or apartment (59.3%), and when seeking job opportunities (57.4%). A higher percentage of respondents reported that "people like me" are treated fairly in stores and restaraunts (70.1%) and when dealing with the police (62.4%).

Additionally, respondents were asked to identify to what extent people face discrimination in their city on the basis of various characteristics. Race was the most frequently mentioned form of discrimination people face, with 23.1% saying a great deal and 47.4% reporting people being somewhat discriminated based on race. Sexual orientation also showed a high percentage of reported discrimination, with 61% saying either a great deal or somewhat. Almost half felt that people at least somewhat face discrimination based on gender (49.2%) and age (48.6%).

In summary, the overall quality of life in Hampton Roads remains relatively consistent with past years. Almost 70% rated the overall quality of life in Hampton Roads as excellent or good (68.2%). Although there were some differences between cities in the reported quality of life, respondents reported a higher quality of life in their neighborhoods compared to their city or the region. While perceptions of neighbors and neighborhoods were generally positive, race relations were rated less favorably and more than half of respondents felt the people in their city face discrimination at least "somewhat" based on race and sexual orientation.

The Life in Hampton Roads Data report and press releases will be placed on the Social Science Research Center website as they are released (http://www.odu.edu/al/centers/ssrc). Follow-up questions about the 2019 Life in Hampton Roads survey should be addressed to:

Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, Ph.D.


The Social Science Research Center

Old Dominion University

757-683-3802 (office)


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