Survey says: 30-point drop in Bloomington government performance since 2017

Released this week, results of a scientifically sampled survey of Bloomington residents show a marked downward trend for attitudes towards performance of city government.

Asked about their “overall confidence in city government,” just 32 percent  of respondents gave it an excellent or good rating in 2023, compared with 62 percent in 2017—a drop of 30 percentage points.

Results of the survey, which was conducted in March and April this year, were released by the city on Thursday.

Also dropping around 30 points in the 2023 survey, compared to the one done in 2017, were several other measures of local government performance, including: the value of services for the taxes paid to the city; generally acting in the best interest of the community; overall direction that the city is taking; being honest and transparent; treating all residents fairly; and listening to public concern.

That contrasts with the assessment of city staff by survey respondents, which shows an upward trend since 2021, after a drop from 2019 to 2021. That brings most measures of city staff performance back to a bit better than the levels that were measured in 2017.

As an example, the rating of respondents of the staff as “courteous” increased from 71 percent to 86 percent between 2021 and 2023—which is 2 points better than the 84 percent recorded in the 2017 survey.

The survey has been conducted every two years for the city of Bloomington by the same firm—Polco/National Research Center. That’s four surveys worth of data that can be tapped for trends.

The city council received a presentation of the basic survey results at its Wednesday meeting.  Giving the presentation was Jade Arocha, who is director of survey research for Polco/National Research Center.

In this year’s survey, there were no open-ended questions, except for one demographic item.

In past surveys, some of the content questions had open-ended response options.

Other notable findings in the survey included downward trends in perceptions of safety and quality of police services.

The number of respondents who rated the quality of police services excellent or good dropped from 78 percent in 2017 to 46 percent in 2023.

The number of respondents who said they felt very safe or somewhat safe in downtown Bloomington at night dropped from 56 to 44 percent between 2017 and 2023.

Homelessness continues to be assessed by survey respondents as a significant challenge in Bloomington. Around 95 percent of respondents have said it’s a “major” or “moderate” challenge in the last two survey years.

Arocha told the city council that for her firm’s clients across the country, ratings related to homelessness and perceptions of safety have generally tended downward over the last few years.

Results on one survey question are probably of interest to anyone who is studying the background for this fall’s MCCSC (Monroe County Community School Corporation) referendum to raise property taxes. If passed by a majority of voters, property taxes would go up by  8.5 cents, to fund early childhood education.

The related question asked respondents about the availability of affordable child care and pre-school. In 2017, 37 percent of respondents rated access to affordable child care and pre-school as excellent or good. In the 2023 survey, that number had dropped by half, to about 19 percent.

The survey included at least a couple of traffic-related items. One question tried to gauge attitudes towards bicycling infrastructure, by giving the background of the new 7-Line separated bicycle lane and asking “Are you satisfied with the current bikelane infrastructure in Bloomington, or would you like to see changes?”

Of the survey respondents, 38 percent said they’d like to see more bicycle lanes, while 14 percent said they’d like to see fewer bicycle lanes. Saying they were satisfied with the amount of bicycle lanes were 17 percent of respondents, while 31 percent had no opinion.

Asked how they felt about automatic ticketing of drivers who run red lights or drive over the speed limit, 38 percent indicated either some or strong support for the idea. Of survey respondents, 48 percent were either against automatic ticketing or strongly against it. Having no opinion were 15 percent.

Probably having an impact on responses to some questions in 2021 compared to 2023 was the lessening impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As one example, the percentage of respondents who reported watching a meeting of elected officials online or on CATS dropped from 36 percent in 2021 to 25 percent in 2023.

15 thoughts on “Survey says: 30-point drop in Bloomington government performance since 2017

  1. Maybe it’s the fact that our local liberal morons keep electing the same double stupid people from the same group of individuals who work for the University. Shutting down our economy for a virus that is a 99.3 percent survival rate. It sure as hell didn’t slow down the hundreds of new apartments. Meanwhile they have refused to address the hardened criminal element to destroy property and burden the public safety of our community

    1. This reply shows vividly why the local Rs made themselves irrelevant in MC and Bloomington. What works, rabid partisan hostility, in pure Appalachian jurisdictions, fails massively in a well educated jurisdiction. Talk about moronic!

      1. My family has been citizens of Monroe, Brown and southern Indiana for several generations. I have worked in the construction industry for my entire career. I was involved with the first community Kitchen and Martha’s House on Rogers Street. My sons were part of the Habitat Homes in High School. I personally worked to have the City to address the criminal element in People’s Park. The Parks tried to clear the criminal aspect out of the park. But the prosecutors office is not allowed to enforce the rules.

      2. Replying again to David Schleibaum: Community Kitchen, Martha’s House, Habitat Homes, are all causes I think are very valuable to Bloomington, and I admire you and your family for contributing your time to them. They are all programs that have been spearheaded by liberals while earning considerable bipartisan support from open-minded conservatives.

        This makes me think that when you rail against “liberal morons” you are actually targeting specific policies you disagree with, rather than the capacities of liberals in general. You might get more traction on these strings if you focused on policies without ridiculing a group of people whose ideas you have sometimes found worthy of your own effort. Don Moore is right: you may be from here, but “rabid partisan hostility,” which your frequent attacks on “liberal morons” resemble, is not likely to persuade many readers here.

    2. Mr. Schleibaum, it may not make much difference to you, but the mortality rate of Covid in the US so far has been ~1.1%, which means a “survival rate” of 98.9%.

      What does that mean? Localized breast cancer (which has not spread in the body), has an almost identical survival rate. Does that mean that we can safely view early stage breast cancer as a non-emergency condition? No, it means the survival rate is high because we *always* take extraordinary measures as soon as breast cancer is diagnosed. Similarly with Covid, when we initially encountered it the mortality rate was much higher than that of localized breast cancer (it was at about 2.5% in the US at the end of April 2020), but as we learned about the disease and applied appropriate responses–better hospitalization practices, masks to reduce the intensity of exposure, and vaccines to increase the body’s resistance to the effects of exposure lowering the intensity of illness–the mortality rate dropped. Extraordinary measures reduced the impact of the disease on those who contracted it. (This effect was enhanced once the virus began to mutate: the successor variants were often more contagious, but less lethal, something it took us time to observe and respond to).

      In retrospect, I think we now know that some state policies probably went further than optimal in restricting social contact, while other state policies cost lives because they were lax. But in the midst of the pandemic those data were not available, and the calculation was basically whether states took the disease to be a serious threat or not. I think if you examine the data you’ll discover that states with strict mask and vaccine policies did much better after January 2021 than states that opposed strict policies, and the current 98.9% US “survival rate” has a great deal to do with the effects of the former, as well as the Federal shutdown of 2020, when the pandemic was spreading unchecked in its most lethal form. In short, the “survival rate” you’re focusing on is high because we took emergency measures, such as mask and vaccine mandates, when the danger was greatest–not because Covid was not a dangerous disease. In the initial months of 2022, for example, when vaccines had been widely but not universally adopted and the virus was still deadly and spreading, the mortality rate for unvaccinated people was ten times greater than vaccinated people. The fact that the vaccine had been so widely adopted is the reason for the statistics you are now relying on to claim such measures were unnecessary.

    3. Maybe people who don’t like the one party rule need to help change it by energizing the local GOP.

      A minority of local elected officials work for the university.

      1. Yes! I agree with you, Sue. I think we’re all suffering from the local GOP having effectively given up in Bloomington city. The governing party almost always does better when it is conscious of effective scrutiny by elected political opposition. (But I can understand the GOP’s lack of energy: Andrew Gunther was a near-perfect GOP candidate for Bloomington four years ago and the election wasn’t really close.)

      2. By allowing the university students to register to vote in our local elections this means that they continue to vote for the Democratic Party which gives them a head start in our local election.

      3. Students may vote more Democratic, but very few vote at all, especially in local elections, and a number of City Council districts have a very small percentage of students to begin with. Obviously, the GOP is at a disadvantage in a liberal college town. But it knows that it needs to nominate relatively liberal candidates in targeted districts–Gunther was a fine example of a well chosen nominee (not to say that Sue Sgambelluri hasn’t been good on the Council: I think she’s been very good).

        I think the problem is that to overcome the auto-D habits of many voters there needs to be a sustained presence of good GOP candidates over several elections, and it’s hard to recruit people to run who know the initial efforts will be futile. But it would be good for D’s and R’s alike if elections always were occasions to offer well-designed conservative critiques of the policies of liberal administrations and councils.

  2. This is a reflection of a corrupt government…has been for years .all about who you know n where you live…if a townie forget govmt doing anything that benefits locals

    1. What needs to change now is if your income comes from the government then you should not be allowed to hold public office. This is a direct violation of the separation between the taxpayer funding of the public education system. They have used to abuse city elections and reward them when they are appointed to counties Board and Commission.

      1. This doesn’t make sense to me, Mr. Schleibaum. We are legally obligated pay our public officeholders for their work. If we allow no one on the public payroll to occupy a government office we will have no government. Perhaps that’s what you want, but earlier you seem to want prosecutors to do their jobs . . .

    1. Yeah, the B-Square’s text poll put King John’s approval rating in the high 20s, as I recall, worse than Richard Nixon at the height of Watergate as Dave noted. There was grumbling about the text survey’s methodology, grumbling that would seem to be largely unfounded given this result.

      1. Eight years ago the opposition was able to garner just 22 percent of the local town residents. The really ironic part was that he increased the payroll tax and increased the Public Transit District to increase the property taxes for both businesses and residents.

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