Poll Finds High Anxiety About Region’s Economy
The poll, conducted by Washington-based Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of Pittsburgh Works Together, an alliance of unions, business, and civic leaders found pessimism across the board among people surveyed from a 13-county area around western Pennsylvania.
“People from every one of the counties surveyed expressed the feeling that the region is headed in the wrong direction, and that recovering jobs lost during the Covid-19 pandemic should be the top priority of leaders here,” said Jeff Nobers, the group’s executive director.
The poll, conducted at the end of February, covered 500 people in Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Washington, Butler, Indiana, Armstrong, Lawrence, Beaver, Venango, and Clarion Counties. The poll has a 4.38 percent margin of error.
The organization is releasing polling details covering the economy, environment, and possible solutions over a three-week period.
The poll is the first in what will be a series of ongoing Regional Reaction polls, designed to gauge the sentiments and concerns of people throughout the region.
“Until this point, no organization has consistently measured general public opinion on issues of the economy and quality of life,” Nobers said. “Pittsburgh Works is looking to fill that gap so the region’s leaders can develop policies informed by an accurate and quantifiable gauge of public sentiment.”
On the economy, the poll found that 51 percent of people surveyed thought the region was headed in the wrong direction, while only 35 percent thought it was going in the right direction. Fourteen percent of those surveyed expressed no opinion. That is a near-total reversal from research conducted a year earlier by Pittsburgh Works, when 56 percent said the region was on the right track, with only 31 percent saying the wrong track.
“The clear message here is that the job loss created by the pandemic has dramatically reconfigured priorities among many people in this region,” said Morgan O’Brien, co-chair of Pittsburgh Works Together.
The latest survey found that the wrong-track opinion was held in either a majority or plurality of every group surveyed, including unions, college degree holders, non-degree holders, and regardless of gender.
The poll found that the economy and public health issues, viewed as intertwined because of business shutdowns triggered by the pandemic, accounted for the most important issues facing voters. “Health issues” were the top concern of 28 percent of those polled, while the economy followed closely with 27 percent.
Concern about state and local government registered at 14 percent, while other issues, including energy, environment, crime, taxes, transportation, and education registered in the single digits.
A year ago, only nine percent of those surveyed listed health issues as a top issue.
The lone bright note was a finding that 50 percent of those surveyed believe that the region’s job and economic situation will be better. The only group in which a plurality of members believed it would be worse was men without college degrees.
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