“Vision Poll” Reveals L.A. County Residents Want to Give Back but Need Direction
Findings suggest strong interest by residents to get more involved and to contribute to their community
LOS ANGELES – October 7, 2015 – Despite a strong desire to be active in their communities, many L.A. County residents are not involved because they don’t know what they can do and they don’t feel they can make an impact, according to a California Community Foundation/USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll.
Eighty percent of respondents said they are willing to volunteer more in their communities to build a better Los Angeles County, and 65 percent said they would be willing to donate more money to noteworthy causes. However, only 29 percent described themselves as somewhat active in their community while 34 percent described themselves as not very involved but wished that they were. Thirty-nine percent of L.A. County residents reported that one of their top reasons for not personally getting involved in their communities is because they are unsure of what they can do, and 31 percent reported that they didn’t feel that they could make a difference.
Providing residents with more apparent avenues to impact their communities could prove beneficial for nonprofit and civically minded organizations, said Dan Schnur, director of the CCF/USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll and director of the Unruh Institute of Politics of USC.
“Angelenos are motivated to get more involved in their communities, but they want to know that they can make a difference,” he said. “What they need is a tour guide — someone who can help them to see how they can make a real difference.”
“We must raise awareness about the complex needs of L.A. County, find common ground across our diverse communities and provide residents with meaningful opportunities to contribute so that everyone is inspired to a play role in building a better region,” said Antonia Hernández, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation.
The poll also found that it’s not only a lack of knowledge that holds people back; it’s a lack of time and motivation. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they are too busy and don’t have enough time to pitch in and 42 percent reported they just don’t have enough money to contribute.
The CCF/USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll also found that L.A. County residents’ motivations for getting involved in the community tend to be personal and individual rather than community-based.
Forty-four percent of residents said they would get more involved in their communities if they knew it would directly help their family, friends and neighbors; 24 percent reported they would pitch in if asked by a personal friend. Overall, 46 percent of L.A. County residents said they are motivated to action because doing so makes them feel good and 40 percent reported that it stems from a personal sense of compassion. Sixty-seven percent said they would get involved if they knew that their efforts would make a difference.
“L.A. County residents are results-oriented in their engagement, choosing to get involved in their communities most when they see that such involvement makes a tangible difference,” said Ben Winston, senior associate of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “But their motivation is also very personal: residents’ primary motivation for engaging is that, beyond helping others less fortunate, it makes them feel good and compassionate.”
“People need to be shown that getting involved on behalf of a broader and collective activity can have the same benefits as personal action,” Schnur said.
When queried about different actions they could take to strengthen their communities, L.A. County residents consistently reported they believed these activities are only “somewhat effective.” For instance, 47 percent of residents said that donating clothes or other items is somewhat effective compared to 27 percent who said it is very effective; 43 percent reported that helping organize a local event is somewhat effective compared to 22 percent who said it is very effective. Residents do believe that voting in elections does make an impact: 44 percent found it to be “very effective.”
Latinos feel a greater sense of community and optimism
L.A. County residents report that their community identity is greater at the local level than in broader geographies.
A majority of residents — 52 percent — reported that they more closely agree with the statement “I consider myself first and foremost a member of my local neighborhood” compared to 48 percent who said they consider themselves “first and foremost a part of the County of Los Angeles.”
L.A. County residents are nearly split on the overall direction of the county. Fifty percent report that things in the county are going in the right direction while 49 percent said that things are seriously off track. However, residents are more optimistic about their neighborhoods, with 63 percent reporting that their neighborhoods are going in the right direction while 37 percent think they’re on the wrong track.
When it comes to the future of the quality of life in L.A. County, 46 percent of residents report that they think things will be worse off in five years, compared to 35 percent who think things will be better off. Latino residents were more optimistic about the future of the county, with 43 percent reporting that things will be better off versus worse off. Forty-nine percent of White residents reported that they believe things will be worse off versus better off.
In comparison, when residents were asked what they would most like to change about the county, they pointed to the community (40 percent), transportation (37 percent) and the economy (18 percent).
From a personal standpoint, traffic is the top concern for 55 percent of respondents. Physical safety of oneself and family members ranked next among 35 percent of residents, followed by personal finances and making ends meet (31 percent) and crowded, substandard or unaffordable housing (31 percent).
In terms of positive qualities in L.A. County, 69 percent of residents report that there are a lot of opportunities to get involved in the county; 60 percent said that the quality of life is high; and 59 percent feel that people generally share their goals and values. In contrast, 70 percent of residents felt that people only look out for themselves, 54 percent felt that people do good deeds to make themselves look good rather than because it’s the right thing to do, and 52 percent reported that people in their neighborhoods are not involved.
The role of the public, private and nonprofit sectors
L.A. County residents reported that they believe certain institutions play distinct roles in different areas of the community. Respondents feel that the government should hold a primary responsibility for investing in safety, education, infrastructure and the environment. Top responses included crime prevention and law enforcement (88 percent), road improvements (86 percent), public schools (85 percent) and mass transit (78 percent).
Residents see a role for charitable organizations in areas such as providing services for at-risk youth (43 percent) and helping immigrants contribute to and succeed in the community (33 percent). Meanwhile, they see job creation (60 percent) and arts and culture (48 percent) as the responsibility of the private sector.
“While county residents do see local government as having the primary responsibility for many aspects of improving community life, they are concerned that their tax dollars won’t be put to good use,” said Dave Kanevsky, research director of Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. “Instead, they do see charitable donations as a more effective way to make their communities better, indicating that community organizations can help fill the gap between the public and private sectors.”
Residents see local and state officials as having the most responsibility for improving the community, ranking mayors, city councils and state-level government officials among the most responsible, followed by ordinary people in the community, local business and themselves, personally.
When it comes to increasing financial support for different community necessities, L.A. County residents ranked among their top five priorities, in order, creating jobs, crime prevention and law enforcement, public schools, affordable housing and healthcare.
The California Community Foundation/USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll was conducted by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Republican polling firm American View, which polled 1,500 adult residents of Los Angeles County. The survey fielded online from Sept. 14 – 24, 2015. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have registered to participate in Research Now’s online surveys and polls. The data has been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of adults in Los Angeles County. Because the sample is based on those who initially self-selected for participation in the panel rather than a probability sample, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, and measurement error.
About the California Community Foundation: The California Community Foundation (CCF) leads positive systemic change to strengthen Los Angeles County. The foundation has served as a public, charitable organization since 1915, empowering donors to pursue their own personal passions and to collaborate in transforming Los Angeles. CCF stewards $1.5 billion in assets and manages nearly 1,600 charitable foundations, funds and legacies. For more information, please visit calfund.org.
About USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences is the heart of the university. The largest, oldest and most diverse of USC’s 19 schools, USC Dornsife is composed of more than 30 academic departments and dozens of research centers and institutes. USC Dornsife is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 750 faculty members with expertise across the humanities, social sciences and sciences.
About the Los Angeles Times: The Los Angeles Times is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country, with a daily readership of 2 million and 3 million on Sunday, and a combined print and interactive local weekly audience of 4.5 million. The fast-growing latimes.com draws over 10 million unique visitors monthly.
tananian [@] calfund [.] org