Anchorage Community Indicators

Anchorage Community Indicators

Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. (Fall 2003). "Anchorage Community Indicators." Alaska Justice Forum 20(3): 1, 5-8. Using data from a telephone survey conducted in late spring 2003, this article presents descriptive maps of Anchorage residents' satisfaction or dissatisfaction in relation to five issues: police performance, emergency medical services, public transportation, snow removal and schools. Data tables for each question are also included.

What follows is the first offering in a Justice Center public education project designed to provide information about various aspects of Anchorage. We have used data from a telephone survey conducted in late spring 2003 to present a descriptive mapping of Anchorage residents’ attitudes toward five issues: police performance, emergency medical services, public transportation, snow removal and schools.

The survey sampled residents of Anchorage who were 18 years old or older. Over 1900 individuals participated. Of this number, 70 percent provided enough information to permit geocoding responses according to residence location. Each map reflects the average response of residents by community council area.

The maps present the mean (average) response to each question for each group of respondents in a particular area. For a more nuanced picture of responses, we have also included data tables for each question. These tables present not just the means but also the medians and standard deviations for responses in the community council areas.

We have chosen to show the results from the survey according to community council areas because the areas are readily recognized referents. We need to note, however, that this is a framework for presentation that we chose after conducting the survey. The telephone survey itself was not designed to be geographically representative of individual community council areas; hence, some areas were very under-sampled. (Also, these maps reflect community council areas in summer 2003. Boundaries have since been slightly changed.)

The maps do not display results from those areas where the number of geocoded responses was under five—Downtown, South Fork, Basher, and Glen Alps. The data tables accompanying each map, however, do contain figures for these areas. Also—for the areas of Eklutna Valley, Turnagain Arm, Portage Valley and Girdwood (where there was no community council at the time the maps were created) no responses geocoded—that is, while these areas probably did contain survey participants, the data associated with residence location were not sufficient for precise mapping.

Satisfaction with Police Performance

To measure satisfaction with police performance, we asked the question “In general, how good a job are the police doing to keep order on the streets and sidewalks in this neighborhood these days?” We elicited answers along the three-point scale—very good, good, not good. The map indicates that, overall, police performance is viewed favorably, with most community council areas colored as good. When the map is viewed in conjunction with the data table, it can be seen that in most colored areas the average (mean) of the responses fell between good and very good, with no area showing an average below good. Further, no area exhibits a median below 2.0, or good.

Research has shown that, in general, the public tends to be satisfied with police performance, but the satisfaction levels registered are rarely this geographically uniform. The three-point scale used for this question in this survey did not permit a finely detailed picture of attitudes. Permitting evaluation across a wider scale would probably uncover more nuances in public attitudes—some of which might have a geographic association.

A deeper look might also correlate attitudes with actual police contacts as well as with respondent demographics and calls for service—things this survey did not do. Other research conducted elsewhere has shown that, in general, minority populations are less favorable toward police, as are younger respondents and those with direct contact. Whether Anchorage respondents would exhibit these patterns is unknown. (Another article in this issue of the Forum, “A Further Perspective on Satisfaction with Policing”, based on results from an earlier survey, provides a somewhat more detailed look at attitudes toward policing.)

Figure 1. Satisfaction with Police Performance, Eagle River
Figure 2. Satisfaction with Police Performance, Anchorage
Table 1. Satisfaction with Police Performance

Satisfaction with Emergency Medical Services

To elicit attitudes toward emergency medical services, we asked the question, “In general, how satisfied are you with emergency medical services in your neighborhood?” Responses were given along a four-point scale: very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, very dissatisfied. Responses revealed widespread satisfaction with services. All community council areas with sufficient numbers of respondents to be colored expressed satisfaction averaging between very satisfied and somewhat satisfied.

The map and its associated data do not provide any comment on the actual delivery of services. A more extensive study might examine what relation exists between experience of service and attitudes and possible relationships grounded in demographics. One interesting point is that this survey was conducted after the intense media attention given to police and emergency services responses in the wake of the murder of Glenn Godfrey and the attack on his wife in summer 2002.

Satisfaction with EMS, Eagle River
Figure 4. Satisfaction with EMS, Anchorage
Table 2. Satisfaction with Emergency Medical Services

Satisfaction with Public Transportation

Our data reveal that there is much less satisfaction with public transportation in the municipality than with the police or EMS. As the map and table show, the average response in over half the community council areas indicates a level of dissatisfaction. These areas included neighborhoods as diverse as Eagle River Valley, Mountain View, Sand Lake and Mid-Hillside, which differ with regard to average income level, housing types and other demographics.

When the map is viewed in conjunction with the table it can be seen that the level of dissatisfaction is most extreme in Rogers Park, Hillside East, Mid-Hillside, Huffman/O’Malley and Rabbit Creek.

A further study might explore patterns of public transportation use: Did respondents use buses? When? For what purposes? It might also be helpful to look at those community council areas expressing higher levels of satisfaction to learn what underlies the differences.

Figure 5. Satisfaction with Public Transportation, Eagle River
Figure 6. Satisfaction with Public Transportation, Anchorage
Table 3. Satisfaction with Public Transportation

Satisfaction with Snow Removal

Survey participants registered a middling level of satisfaction with snow removal throughout the municipality, with community council areas in the central and northeast parts of the city (Taku/Campbell, Spenard, Northstar, Fairview, Airport Heights, Mountain View, Russian Jack, Northeast Anchorage and Government Hill) indicating some dissatisfaction.

As with the other questions, the survey did not probe for reasons that would explain the different levels of satisfaction. To gain a fuller understanding, it would be helpful to know what residents focus on with regard to snow removal: Timing? Streets? Sidewalks? Child safety? Are attitudes related to wealth, housing density, traffic concentration, actual service delivery? This survey was conducted following a winter in which the snowfall was relatively light. A winter with more snow might affect resident attitudes.

Figure 7. Satisfaction with Snow Removal, Eagle River
Figure 8. Satisfaction with Snow Removal, Anchorage
Table 4. Satisfaction with Snow Removal

Satisfaction with Schools

The final map presented here exhibits the average level of satisfaction with Anchorage schools as expressed in the community council areas. For most areas, the average response fell in the mid-range between the extremes of poor and excellent, but residents in several areas gave the schools a higher average rating—Mid-Hillside, Bear Valley, Rogers Park, Government Hill, Eagle River Valley and Birchwood.

As with the other issues considered here, this map is only broadly descriptive, but it does suggest other questions that might be asked on a very complex topic. Further study might focus on discerning what underlies attitudes in the areas exhibiting higher levels of satisfaction: Is there a relationship to household income? Educational level of the adults in the household? School test scores?

Similar questions could be used to probe for what underlies attitudes in areas expressing more dissatisfaction—as shown by the median scores in the data table. Some of the areas show appreciably more dissatisfaction as indicated by the median—Taku/Campbell, Northstar, Spenard, Fairview, Russian Jack, Northeast, Abbott Loop, Tudor, and Campbell Park.

Figure 9. Satisfaction with Schools, Eagle River
Figure 10. Satisfaction with Schools, Anchorage
Table 5. Satisfaction with Schools

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These first maps from the Anchorage Community Indicators project are broadly descriptive of general resident opinions about certain aspects of community life. By providing a visual interpretation of the quantitative survey results, they provoke additional questions—some of which have been mentioned here—and suggest further lines of inquiry to refine these first insights. The Justice Center will continue to incorporate this type of spatial analysis in the Community Indicators project.