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Survey shows deep ambivalence about direction of Santa Barbara

A recent survey commissioned by the Santa Barbara City Council suggests deep ambivalence about the city’s overall direction and whether respondents approve of the job city government is doing. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they thought the city was headed in the “right direction,” while 53 percent said it was headed in the “wrong direction.”

But when asked the same question about their own neighborhoods, respondents were noticeably more optimistic. Forty-six percent said their neighborhood was headed in the right direction, while only 31 percent said it was headed “in the wrong direction.”

When asked whether they approved or disapproved of the job the city government was doing, only 4 percent said they strongly approved, while 19 percent said they strongly disapproved. When softer gradations of sentiment were factored into the equation, 39 percent somewhat or strongly approved, while 49 percent strongly or somewhat approved. Twelve percent didn’t know.

The survey was prepared by the FM3 polling firm to help guide the City Council in its decision to put a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot in hopes of generating $15.6 million a year in additional revenue. Of the 220 people surveyed, 23 percent said they believed the city had a “great need” for the additional revenue, while 15 percent said there was no real need.

Thirty-one percent said they would vote in favor of the measure and 21 percent said they probably would. In contrast, 22 percent said they would vote against the measure and 10 percent said they probably would.

The top arguments in favor of the sales tax increase were that it would improve or maintain emergency services, help fund affordable housing, address homelessness, and improve library services. Respondents reported that these arguments made them moderately more inclined (26 to 36 percent) to vote in favor of the measure.

But when posed with the argument that the sales tax increase was regressive and would increase the cost of living, 44 percent said they were more inclined to vote no. Of those, 20 percent said they were “much more inclined.”

After all these questions, respondents were asked again how they would vote if the election were held that day. 29 percent said yes; 24 percent said no. Only after taking into account “odds” and “inclination” did 53 percent say they supported the measure; 38 percent opposed it. For the ballot measure to prevail, a majority of 50 percent plus one will be needed.