Suburbanites could influence elections: study

Anthony Oreilly

A decrease in the amount of confidence that U.S. residents living in suburbs have in their local police and public schools could influence November’s midterm elections, a survey conducted by National Center for Suburban Studies at Hoftra University has found.

“For almost a generation, the ‘swing’ suburbs have decided national elections and this year should be no different,” said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies. “The parties and candidates that best understand these relatively moderate, independent voters have the best chance of controlling the national agenda.”

The survey – which was released last Wednesday and has a 4.9 percent margin of error – found that confidence in local police among suburbanites fell from 86 percent in 2008 to 78 now.

The number of suburbanites who say their publics school system is a problem in their community jumped from 37 percent in 2010 to 47 now.

According to the survey, suburban voters are currently split between Democratic and Republican candidates with 42 percent of the vote. 

About 20 percent of suburban voters said they do not know who they will vote for in this election, which the survey says is a “clear indication of dissatisfaction for the political system.”

Approval rating for the federal government is at 49 percent, the survey found, a two point increase from 2012. In the same time span, President Barack Obama’s approval rating among suburbanites fell from 45 percent to 39 now, according to the survey.

The survey also said that 34 percent of suburbanites say they were better off financially than they were in 2008, but that 55 percent say that their personal finances are still “weak,” with 41 percent of them living from paycheck to paycheck. 

Officials from the center for suburban studies said 1,546 adults were called between July 21 and Aug. 7, 2014 for the survey. 

The survey found that the lack of confidence in local police has fallen even deeper among minorities living in suburbs, with confidence dropping from 73 percent in 2009 to 59 now. 

But Christopher Niedt, a professor of sociology and academic director of the National Center for Suburban Studies, said “the problems [in the minority community] are much broader” than a lack of confidence in police.

Niedt also said that minorities have also cited poor school systems and a lack of job opportunities as problems in their communities. 

“So policing is only one part of a broader pattern of inequality that keeps minority suburban communities from benefitting from the nation’s slow economic recovery,” he said.

Officials with the center said the survey was taken before protests in Ferguson, Mo., were sparked after police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death in early August. 

“More and more suburban communities are heavily minority, and how these new residents view themselves, their neighbors and especially local authorities could be the difference between social and economic progress and Ferguson-like violence,” Levy said.

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Anthony Oreilly

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