In good times and bad, the City of Carlsbad’s approval ratings have remained consistently high, according to a new survey presented to the Carlsbad City Council Tuesday. The city conducts an annual resident satisfaction survey to gauge residents’ opinions of a wide range of city services and issues.
“Although some individual results change from year to year, when you look at the historical data, overall satisfaction rates have remained steady or are higher today than they were almost 10 years ago,” said Josh Williams of BW Research, a Carlsbad-based research firm that conducted the study.
According to Williams, year over year fluctuations are expected and in some cases are predicted. Williams cited the increased level of confidence in local government and satisfaction with public safety services seen last year, following the Poinsettia Fire. This year, concerns about growth and open space increased, something that could be attributed to several highly visible construction projects underway around the city, said Williams.
In 2015, 70 percent of residents agreed that the city protects and enhances open space and the natural environment, an 11 point decrease over 2013. When asked about the number one thing the city could do to improve the quality of life, 18 percent cited prevention of building and growth, the top response. Another 12 percent of residents said improving traffic was the highest priority. The third most popular answer was “nothing needs improvement,” which was said by 7 percent of respondents.
Williams looked at trends in survey responses dating back to when the current set of questions was first used.
Overall satisfaction with city services has remained above 90 percent since 2007. In 2015, 91 percent of residents were satisfied.
Quality of life ratings of excellent or good have remained at 95 percent or higher since 2008, the first year that question was asked. In 2015, about 97 percent of residents gave quality of life a positive rating.
Confidence in local government has remained above 80 percent since 2007, although the percentage who are very confident has increased from 24 percent in 2007 to 29 percent in 2015. The 2015 survey showed 81 percent of residents were confident in local government to make decisions that positively affect their lives.
“Looking at the numbers from 2007 on is valuable because it includes the time going into, during and following the Great Recession,” said Williams.
In 2015, for the first time, the city asked about the importance of specific city services, in addition to satisfaction levels. Following are the rankings for services included in this year’s survey:
Provide local fire protection and emergency medical services (100%)
Repair and maintain local streets and roads (99%)
Provide local police and law enforcement services (98%)
Manage traffic congestion on city streets (96%)
Provide high quality parks that offer appropriate amenities and facilities (96%)
Provide library services (95%)
Support a healthy business climate in Carlsbad (95%)
Provide parks that offer what you want at a convenient location (93%)
Provide recreation programs (92%)
Provide trails and paths for hiking and running (92%)
Williams compared the importance ratings with satisfaction levels and found that satisfaction levels were highest for those services that were seen as the most important, with the exception of traffic and roads. The only other issue where importance was out of sync with level of satisfaction was bicycling. Younger residents placed a higher level of importance on providing safe and convenient ways to get around by bicycle, but were less satisfied than older residents.
“Traffic is one of those areas where resident satisfaction typically lags behind its perceived importance,” said Williams. “Overall, the data show that the city is generally focusing on the right things.”
The citywide survey averaged 19 minutes in length and was administered by telephone from Oct. 12 through Oct. 25. Residents were called on land lines and mobile phones. A statistically representative sample of 1,003 Carlsbad residents over the age of 18 completed the survey, resulting in a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points overall. The survey report is available on the city website.