The biggest disparities when it comes to residents’ satisfaction with the quality of life in Mobile and Baldwin counties fell along racial, economic and generational lines, according to a February survey conducted by ALG Research.
Kevin Akins, a partner with the Montgomery-based polling, presented the survey results on Thursday morning, as part of a Coastal Conversations meeting. The group, supported by the Coastal Alabama Partnership, commissioned the study.
The survey of 700 Alabama Gulf Coast residents found that the overall perception of the area’s quality of life was relatively high with 78 percent of respondents feeling positively about their quality of life. Only 21 percent of respondents felt negatively about their quality of life.
Akins said the groups that felt the most positive about the area’s perceived quality of life were white college graduates 50 years or older, at 94 percent; White residents who attended graduate school, at 93 percent; college-educated Republicans and Democrats, at 92 percent each and senior citizens at 88 percent.
While the number of survey respondents who felt negatively about their quality of life was relatively low, at just 21 percent, certain groups felt more negatively about it than others. For instance, Akins said, the survey found that 41 percent of Black residents living in Mobile County, but outside the city of Mobile had a negative impression of the area’s quality of life. Those making less than $25,000 annually per household also felt more negatively about the quality of life, at 40 percent. Black residents under 50, Black women and all Mobile County residents under the age of 50 felt more negatively than others about the quality of life in the area, Akins said.
The survey also showed that older people in the area are more optimistic about the future, Akins said. In Mobile County, 53 percent of White residents over 50 feel the community is headed in the right direction, compared to only 18 percent who feel it’s going in the wrong direction. Black residents over 50 also feel more good than bad about the direction in which the county is headed.
However, the opinions of those residents — both Black and White — under 50 have more mixed opinions about the future. White residents and Black residents under 50 feel the area is headed in a more mixed direction, or they said they don’t know, according to the results.
The area received high marks for access to public parks and beaches, public safety and quality of healthcare. However, residents had the biggest concerns about local traffic conditions, the availability of affordable housing and the availability of quality jobs, Akins said.
Overall, the quality of public schools in the area received high marks, but those responses depended heavily on which side of Mobile Bay a person was on. More than half of residents in Mobile and Baldwin counties felt good about the quality of public education, but there were stark differences depending on how long parents had lived in the area.
For instance, 59 percent of Baldwin County parents who’ve lived there less than 15 years felt the quality of public schools there were good. However, only 20 percent of Mobile County parents who’ve lived there less than 15 years felt the same way about their schools.
The opinions shift a bit for parents who’ve lived in either county for more than 15 years. For example, 51 percent of those more experienced Mobile County parents gave the public schools a positive review, compared to 42 percent who gave them negative marks.
Those same Baldwin Parents gave the schools a positive rating 74 percent of the time.
The issue of race relations and inclusion saw a stark difference among White and Black residents. White Mobile County residents had a positive outlook on race relations by a 57 percent to 40 percent margin. A whopping 72 percent of White Baldwin County residents gave a positive review of race relations. Black respondents to the survey had a negative feeling about race relations, with 56 percent of those residents giving the issue a bad review.
Residents in both counties feel the area doesn’t provide enough opportunities to keep young, talented people. Overall, 53 percent of those asked said the area does not provide enough of those opportunities. The largest group of residents who hold this belief, Akins said, are those ages 18 to 34. However, more than half of those Baldwin County respondents 65 and older believe there are enough opportunities for the younger generations. Those retirement-aged Baldwin County respondents feel there are enough opportunities for the younger folks, with a 52-percent majority.
Respondents in both counties believe growth and development in the area has helped with economic development and a higher percentage of area residents approve of the job local and state leaders are doing, Akins said.
The study was conducted between Feb. 9 and Feb. 15 of this year, he said. The responses from Mobile County for the overall numbers were weighted more heavily than those from Baldwin County because the western area is more populous. Coastal Alabama Partnership plans to conduct this survey on an annual basis.
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