Spotlight: Quality of Life

Background

In 2017, the Montgomery County Government's CountyStat Office and Office of Public Information commissioned the National Research Center (NRC), a survey firm, to conduct its standardized “National Citizen Survey” in Montgomery County. The purpose was to seek Montgomery County residents' views on the county’s overall livability, the quality of the county’s public services, residents' levels of participation in civic life, and their priorities for government action. Each respondent provided feedback on over 200 questions and topics across 8 main themes: 

Main survey categories: Safety, Mobility, Natural Environment, Built Environment, Economy, Recreation and Wellness, Education and Enrichment, Community Engagement
The survey results are drawn from a representative sample of 1,075 residents aged 18 and over who were randomly selected to participate. Respondents were asked to provide feedback for their household. Women responded to the survey at a higher rate than men, representing 58 percent of all responses compared with their 53 percent share of the adult population. NRC corrected for demographic imbalances in the sample by reweighing the responses to better match the County’s on various measures: race/ethnicity, home ownership rate, housing type, age, gender, and home regional service center area. This reweighing rebalanced the responses to the County norm for all factors except for Hispanic residents, due to a particularly low response rate (8 percent in sample, reweighted to 12 percent, vs. a County norm of 16 percent).
The findings and charts below are based on a comparison of the results received fromwomen and men. This data splitting results in a higher margin of error since the number of respondents for each subgroup is smaller. Based on a 95 percent confidence interval, the estimated margin of error for the responses from women is roughly 4 percent, while for men the margin of error is roughly 5 percent (vs. 3 percent for county-wide figures). For this reason, CountyStat will focus on responses that show a significant difference in the responses, equal to 8 percent or more. Also, note that men were overrepresented among Asian respondents (22 percent share vs. 14 percent among women) while women were overrepresented among Black/ African American respondents (16 percent vs. 9 percent). Men were also overrepresented among high-income brackets (53 percent vs. 43 percent) and households containing children (40 percent vs. 31 percent). 

Comparing Responses for Women and Men

While responses are often remarkably consistent across female and male respondents—from employment opportunities to air quality—the survey results do show notable differences in the following areas:
woman writing out priorities

Civic Engagement and Participation

Women generally report higher levels of advocacy and civic engagement; higher satisfaction with opportunities for participating in community matters; and higher levels of keeping up with local news than men:
  • Women are more likely to campaign or advocate for an issue (31 percent vs. 19 percent), to contact Montgomery County (51 percent vs. 42 percent), to volunteer (45 percent vs. 40 percent), and to attend a local public meeting (26 percent vs. 22 percent) or watch it remotely (28 percent vs. 23 percent).
  • Building on this finding, women generally report higher satisfaction with opportunities for community engagement, including opportunities to volunteer (65 percent vs. 55 percent “Excellent” or “Good”), opportunities to participate in community matters (59 percent vs. 52 percent “Excellent” or “Good”), and social events and activities (22 percent vs. 11 percent “Excellent”).
  • Women are also more likely to “always” vote in local elections (53 percent vs. 43 percent), “always” read or watch local news (43 percent vs. 30 percent), and “always” recycle (77 percent vs. 73 percent).
  • Women are also more frequent users of civic association newsletters and community list serves (59 percent vs. 52 percent) as well as Nextdoor (33 percent vs. 28 percent) and are more intense consumers of local TV stations (34 percent vs. 23 percent “major source”).
  • Women report higher levels of satisfaction with county-sponsored special events (74 percent vs. 63 percent “excellent” or “good,” excluding “don’t know”).
  • Indicative of this higher level of engagement, women had a higher response rate to the survey itself, representing 58 percent of all responses vs. their 53 percent share of the adult population.

Government Priorities

Women generally place higher importance on government’s role inaddressing community issues than do men:
  • Women are more likely to suggest that the government make a “high effort” to improving social services for those in need (55 percent vs. 40 percent), to improving the environment (53 percent vs. 40 percent), to jobs and business growth (46 percent vs. 37 percent), and to addressing crime (65 percent vs. 57 percent).
  • Women are also more likely to rate the following as “essential”: health and wellness opportunities (39 percent vs. 25 percent), economic health of the county (50 percent vs. 41 percent), and opportunities for education and enrichment (46 percent vs. 39 percent).

people waiting in line
woman and girl in park

Government Services

Women generally reported higher levels of satisfaction with government services, the county government’s customer service, and their ability to work with government to resolve issues:
  • Women rate customer service by Montgomery County employees more highly than men (75 percent vs. 66 percent “excellent” or “good”, excluding “don’t know”).
  • Women are much more likely to report that it is “very easy” for them to communicate their issue or problem to county government (45 percent vs. 24 percent) and to resolve their issue or problem (30 percent vs. 16 percent).
  • Women report higher levels of strong satisfaction with Montgomery County government (25 percent “Excellent” vs. 17 percent), but lower overall satisfaction with the federal government (40 percent vs. 48 percent “Excellent” or “Good”).
  • Women report higher satisfaction with Montgomery County Recreation programs or classes (82 percent vs. 76 percent when excluding “don’t know”). Ratings for libraries were largely consistent across men and women.

Quality of Life

While women and men often provided similar rates of positive feedback on the county’s quality of life, women reported higher rates of strong positive feedback (as indicated by an “Excellent” rating) whereas men more often provided the lower positive rating of “Good”:
  • Women are more likely to see Montgomery County as an “Excellent” place to live (39 percent vs. 33 percent) and an “Excellent” place to raise children (37 percent vs. 31 percent) than are men. Women are also more likely to report that they are “very likely” to recommend living in Montgomery County to someone who asks (49 percent vs. 40 percent).
  • Women are more likely than men to rate shopping opportunities as “Excellent” (37 percent vs. 26 percent) and to rate the county’s vibrant downtowns and commercial areas as “Excellent” or “Good” (69 percent vs. 60 percent).
  • Women are more likely to report that the overall appearance of Montgomery County is “Excellent” (23 percent vs. 15 percent), with “Excellent” levels of overall cleanliness (24 percent vs. 16 percent) and “Excellent” public places where people want to spend time than are men (22 percent vs. 15 percent).

police woman
woman handing out bottles

Public Security and Economic Security

Women report somewhat higher levels of safety in their neighborhood than men, but slightly lower satisfaction with police. They report crime to the police less frequently than men do. Women are also more concerned about the impact of the economy than men are:
  • Women report higher degrees of safety, particularly in their neighborhood during the day (72 percent feeling “very safe” vs. 65 percent among men).
  • Women report slightly higher levels of dissatisfaction with police services (18 percent vs. 12 percent report “Poor” or “Fair”, excluding “Don’t know”) than do men.
  • Women are less likely to have reported a crime to the police than men are (15 percent vs. 22 percent) and are more likely to have no opinion on crime prevention (32 percent vs. 21 percent).
  • Women are more likely than men to be concerned about the impact of the economy on their family over the next 6 months (18 percent vs. 9 percent “very” or “somewhat negative”).
  • Women are more likely than men to have no opinions on permitting services (63 percent vs. 49 percent) and economic development (33 percent vs. 20 percent).

Personal Health and Emergency Preparedness

Women report living healthier lifestyles and appear to be more prepared for an emergency than men are:
  • Women appear to live a healthier lifestyle than men, particularly in terms of eating 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day (65 percent vs. 51 percent “always” or “usually”) and participating in moderate or vigorous physical activity (58 percent vs. 52 percent “always” or “usually”).
  • Women are more likely than men to use Alert Montgomery (58 percent vs. 46 percent) and are somewhat more likely to have stocked supplies in preparation for an emergency (38 percent vs. 33 percent).
  • Women report higher dissatisfaction than men with electric and gas utilities (29 percent vs. 22 percent “fair” or “poor”, excluding “don’t know”) and drinking water (28 percent vs. 20 percent).

woman riding bus

Mobility

Women report somewhat higher levels of satisfaction with public transportation overall than men, but give lower ratings or hold no opinions on walking and bicycling:
  • Women report slightly higher satisfaction with public transportation (39 percent positive vs. 34 percent) than men, but are less satisfied with the ease of walking (48 percent vs. 54 percent).
  • Possibly indicating lower usage, women more frequently have no opinion on bus and transit services than men (32 percent vs. 22 percent) and particularly the ease of travel by bicycle (46 percent vs. 31 percent).
  • Women report lower levels of satisfaction than men with snow removal (53 percent vs. 61 percent “Excellent” or “Good”) and sidewalk maintenance (48 percent vs. 55 percent “Excellent” or “Good”).

Schools

Women reported higher levels of overall satisfaction with the K-12 school system, but rated school facilities and class sizes lower compared to from men:
  • Women report higher levels of satisfaction with overall education at K-12 public schools (80 percent vs. 71 percent “excellent” or “good” excluding “don’t know”).
  • However, women report lower levels of satisfaction with school facilities than men (34 percent vs. 36 percent “Poor” or “Fair,” excluding “Don’t know”) and, similarly, with class sizes (50 percent vs. 44 percent).

Interactive Dashboard with Full Results

CountyStat has developed an interactive dashboard that compares responses by age, gender, income, and other characteristics for every question on the survey. This tool is best viewed in full-screen by going to the following link: bit.ly/mc-qol-dashboard (or can be viewed embedded on this page below).

Finally, to view the other survey reports, please visit: montgomerycountymd.gov/OPI/survey2017.html