Life in Hampton Roads survey No. 1: Quality of life

Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. For nine years, the annual survey has queried respondents, providing insight on how the region's residents view their lives and communities. (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of VDOT)
Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. For nine years, the annual survey has queried respondents, providing insight on how the region’s residents view their lives and communities. (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of VDOT)

NORFOLK — The Old Dominion University Social Science Research Center recently released the first part of the 2018 Life in Hampton Roads Survey Report.

LIHR has been conducted by the Social Science Research Center with support from the Old Dominion University Office of Research and the College of Arts and Letters since 2010 and is now in its ninth year.

Release No. 1 focuses on regional quality of life and perceptions of the local public school system.

Data from prior years is also provided when available to show comparisons in responses over time.

Responses were weighted by city population, race, age, gender and phone usage (cell versus land-line) to be representative of the Hampton Roads region.

Subsequent releases will focus on politics, economics, health, transportation, and flooding and sea level rise.

For additional information on survey methodology, and analyses of other issues, see the SSRC website.

Overall quality of life

The overall quality of life in Hampton Roads has remained steady. The 2018 Life in Hampton Roads survey continues to show a generally good regional quality of life.

The majority of those interviewed (70.1 percent) reported that the overall quality of life in Hampton Roads was excellent or good while 29.6 percent found it to be fair or poor.

The portion of respondents rating regional quality of life as good or excellent is slightly lower than last year’s portion (71.2 percent).

Quality of life in Hampton Roads

Over the last several years, quality of life has remained relatively consistent in Hampton Roads.

In 2014, 71.2 percent of respondents rated the quality of life in Hampton Roads as excellent or good.

In 2015, 72.9 percent of respondents rated quality of life in Hampton Roads as excellent or good, in 2016, 70.3 percent, and in 2017, 71.2 percent.

In 2018, there was a slight decrease in the percentage of respondents who rated quality of life in Hampton Roads as excellent or good (70.1 percent). Focusing on the other end of the spectrum, ratings of the quality of life as poor has been consistently low (always less than 5 percent), though it did see an increase from 3.1 percent in 2017 to 4.2 percent in 2018.

Home ownership in Hampton Roads

Respondents were asked whether they own or are in the process of buying their home, rent or have some other arrangement. Similar to past years, the majority of residents reported that they own or are in the process of buying their home (67.7 percent), marking the highest percentage in the past five years.

Another 28.8 percent indicated that they rent, while only 1.8 percent reported having another arrangement.

Neighborhood and city quality of life ratings

The 2018 Life in Hampton Roads survey examined subregional measures of neighborhood and city quality of life and also examined relevant measures at the city level.

Although such analyses have significant value, they should also be understood in the context of the much greater uncertainty associated with inferences from sub-population analyses.

The maximum margin of error, including design effects from weighting, for the entire sample of LIHR is 4.5 percent (95 percent confidence level).

Thus, only quite large differences between subsample groups are statistically significant and the margin of error for individual cities will be much larger.

City quality of life

Respondents were asked to rate the quality of life for their city of residence. Seventy-one percent of respondents reported the quality of life in their city as excellent or good (17.2 percent and 53.8 percent, respectively).

Another 28.5 percent rated the quality of life in their city as either fair (24.6 percent) or poor (3.9 percent).

Perceptions of city quality of life varied significantly across Hampton Roads (p<.05). At the top end, 88.3 percent of respondents from Chesapeake rated the quality of life in their city as good or excellent, as did 80.4 percent of respondents from Virginia Beach.

Suffolk was slightly lower, with 76.2 percent rating city quality of life as good or excellent. Norfolk and Hampton ranked somewhat lower, at 63.9 percent and 60.9 percent respectively.

Finally, Newport News and Portsmouth ranked substantially lower at 56.5 percent and 46.7 percent, respectively.

Residents in some cities appear to have substantially higher perceptions of quality of life than others.

Although the rankings within the top group (Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Suffolk) and the bottom group (Newport News and Portsmouth) cannot be known with statistical confidence, we can be confident that the top group and bottom group are different, and the observed rankings are broadly consistent with patterns we have seen in previous survey years.

Neighborhood quality of life

Overall, respondents reported very high ratings for quality of life in their neighborhood. The majority of respondents (79.4 percent) rated the quality of life in their neighborhood as either excellent or good.

In contrast, only 20.4 percent of respondents rated the quality of life in their neighborhood as fair or poor.

Overall, quality of life was rated the highest (excellent and good) for respondent’s neighborhood (79.4 percent), followed by city of residence (71.0 percent), and finally Hampton Roads as a whole (70.1 percent).

Across years, a strong majority of respondents rated the quality of life in their neighborhoods as good or excellent.

While the total percentage of respondents that rated the quality of life in their neighborhoods as good or excellent remained similar to previous years, there was a considerable decrease in respondents who rated the quality of life in their neighborhoods as excellent (29.9 percent).

This percentage had seen small increases in each of the previous four years (35.5, 36.4, 37.3 and 37.8 percent, respectively). Additionally, 2018 saw a slight increase in respondents rating the quality of life in their neighborhood as poor (2.6 percent) compared to only 1.0 percent in 2017.

In summary, the overall quality of life in Hampton Roads remains relatively consistent with past years. Over 70 percent rate the overall quality of life in Hampton Roads as excellent or good.

Although there were some differences between cities in the reported quality of life, respondents reported a higher quality of life in their neighborhoods compared to the city or region as a whole.

All Life in Hampton Roads data summaries will be placed on the Social Science Research Center website as they are released.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.