Residents Remain Highly Satisfied with Quality of Life, Survey Finds

Monday, March 26, 2012

Residents of the western metro Atlanta/West Georgia area remain highly satisfied with their community and their lives, despite economic struggles and considerable national political and social divisions.

Residents of the western metro Atlanta/West Georgia area remain highly satisfied with their community and their lives, despite economic struggles and considerable national political and social divisions. That's the finding of the second annual West Georgia Area Survey conducted by the University of West Georgia's Survey Research Center.

More than nine out of 10 respondents reported that they were “very happy” or “happy” with their lives, while a virtually identical percentage rated their local community as “excellent,” “very good,” or a “good” place to live. These numbers were consistent with the results of the previous year's West Georgia Area Survey.

Respondents reported relatively modest levels of “generalized trust” (trust in people in general), though the results were virtually identical to those asked an identical question in a recent national survey, the 2010 General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. However, like last year, several measures of “localized trust” yielded a much more favorable view of others in their community, including trust in neighbors, those with whom they worship, and local law enforcement officers.

At least 80 percent of those who answered each of these questions expressed “a lot” or “some” trust in each of these groups of people. There is also considerable trust in co-workers and local community leaders, though it is somewhat less strong than trust in the community members mentioned above.

Participants also again reported being highly engaged in their community, as measured by involvement in a variety of aspects of civic life. Roughly half participate in religious organizations and charitable organizations for the needy, with significant numbers of individuals taking part in a variety of other activities like senior citizens groups, neighborhood organizations, Scouts and other youth groups, and other types of local organizations. Finally, once again most respondents (73 percent) participated in more than one type of local civic activity, with almost half taking part in four or more types.

Todd Matthews, co-director of the survey, noted that “once again, the citizens of the West Georgia region have expressed a strong level of satisfaction with their community and their lives, despite the daily barrage of negative news. This is likely because they are engaged, active participants in civic life, which has long been found to be a hallmark characteristic of a good place to live.”

Other topics explored in the survey addressed: perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system; attitudes regarding civility in contemporary life; participation in religious life and activities; concern about the environment; crime victimization and fear of crime; and basic demographic measures gathered by the researchers to use for comparative purposes.

The West Georgia Area Survey was a landline and cell phone survey conducted in late 2011. There were 632 respondents from a seven-county area around UWG: Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, Haralson, Heard, Paulding, and Troup. The lead researcher on the project was Catherine Jenks, director of the Survey Research Center in UWG's College of Social Sciences and an assistant professor of criminology. Matthews, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and  L. Michael Johnson, associate professor of criminology, were co-directors of the project. The project will continue on a regular basis in future years, with questions designed to explore continuing trends or new and emerging issues on a variety of topics of interest to researchers, policy makers, business leaders, and local citizens.

The researchers are available to present data from the study to local organizations and community leaders. Please contact Matthews at 678-839-6325 or by e-mail at tmatthew@westga.edu if you are interested in learning more about the study results.