Key Quality of Life Findings from the 2018 Stark Poll

When asked what the most important problem facing Stark County right now was, for the second straight year, substance abuse and heroin were cited most frequently, given by 27.4% of respondents, a slight increase from 26.5% the previous year and a sharp increase from 6% in 2015.

Following substance abuse/heroin epidemic was government and infrastructure issues such as road conditions, water and sewer system issues, and poor or ineffective government, 22%. Slightly fewer, 19%, identified employment concerns such as job loss, high unemployment, and not enough good paying jobs. Even fewer, 14%, named crime and safety concerns such as violence and poor police relations. An additional 8% identified economic issues such as taxes and the struggling economy as the most important problem. Other responses include, in order of importance: health and mental health issues such as teen suicides, 5%; education concerns such as school funding, 2%; and housing concerns such as the poor housing market and foreclosures, 1%.

There have been significant shifts in resident perception of the most important problem facing Stark County over the last five years. For the second time in twelve years, substance abuse/heroin epidemic was the most important problem facing the county, a considerable increase from 2015 when 6% named substance abuse as the number one problem. Prior to 2016, substance abuse was not even in the top three most important problems.

The percentage of respondents who have named government and infrastructure as the most important issue remained relatively consistent over the first seven years of data collection, fluctuating between 5% and 10% before increasing to 19% in 2014 and 34% in 2015 and then decreasing back to 14% in 2016 and 2017 and then increasing to 22% in 2018.

Once the most frequently named problem facing the county, for the fourth consecutive year, employment concerns were NOT the most important problem facing the county. In fact, in 2018, employment concerns ranked as the third most important problem in the county. The percentage that identified employment concerns as the most important problem has greatly decreased over the past eight years. Between 2007 and 2010, there was a 25% increase in the percentage of respondents that cited employment concerns (35% to 60%) with 2011 being the first year in which there was a decrease from 60% in 2010 to 55% in 2011. The largest decrease was between 2011 and 2012, a 12% decrease from 55% to 43%. In 2016, it increased for the first time in six years from 25% to 28% followed by decreases to 25% in 2017 and to 19% in 2018, which was the lowest percentage of respondents naming employment concerns as the most important problem in the twelve years that data has been collected.