Pittsburghers love where they live — but survey finds room for improvement | The Numbers Racket

The Pittsburgh skyline, viewed from the Duquesne Incline. (Dllu/WikiMedia Commons)

From its walkable neighborhoods and vibrant food and arts scene to the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins, there’s plenty to recommend the greater Pittsburgh area.

And while the latest Quality of Life Survey from the University of Pittsburgh finds Steel City residents generally happy with where they call home, a deeper dive into the numbers also reveals that, as is the case with everything in life, there’s always some room for improvement. A full explanation of the poll’s methodology can be found here.

Here’s this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket.

68 percent: That’s the total percentage of Allegheny County residents who rated their home turf as an “excellent” or “good” place to live in 2018.

Source: University of Pittsburgh 2018 Quality of Life poll (Screen Capture)

60 percent: That’s the total percentage of Allegheny County residents who responded the same way when they were asked that question in 2011.

Less than 1 percent: The total number of Allegheny County residents who consider the region a “poor” place to live, according to the survey.

“More than half of residents overall also believe the quality of life in the region has improved in recent years, a much rosier assessment than before, when less than 30 percent thought it had gotten better,” Pitt researchers found. “And county residents overall are more likely to rate their neighborhood more highly than they did seven years earlier.”

74 percent: The percentage of respondents who have lived in the region for more than 20 years.

78 percent: The percentage of respondents who answered the same way in 2011.

Among the newcomers to the region, or those who have lived there five years or less:

60 percent: The ranks of respondents who listed education as their primary reason for moving to the area.

21 percent: The ranks of respondents who said the same thing about employment. It was, pollsters said, the second-most popular response.

Now here’s the caveat:

74 percent: The percentage of white respondents who consider Allegheny County an “excellent” or “very good” place to live.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Quality of Life poll (Screen Capture)

29 percent: The percentage of African-American respondents who gave the same answer to Pitt’s pollsters.

“African Americans are more than twice as likely to say the quality of life has declined. And 9 percent rate their neighborhood as poor compare to only 2 percent of white residents,” pollsters wrote.

What’s driving that?

“Widely publicized police shootings, protests, and social justice movements have elevated race relations in American political and public discourse in the years since the 2011 quality of life survey was conducted,” pollsters wrote. “Today, many more Allegheny County residents express concern about race relations in their community, the new survey suggests.”

Source: University of Pittsburgh Quality of Life survey (Screen Capture)

One in four: The number of respondents who said their neighborhood is not diverse at all. The number has not changed much since 2011, pollsters found.

27 percent: The ranks of respondents who think ” race relations is a severe or moderate problem in their neighborhoods, which is nearly twice the rate reported in 2011.”

58 percent: The ranks of 2011 respondents who didn’t see race relations as a problem in their neighborhood.

40 percent: The percentage of white residents who don’t see race relations as a problem in their neighborhood.

Less than 22 percent: The percentage of African-American respondents who answered that question the same way.

44 percent: The percentage of African-American respondents who see race relations in their neighborhood as a “severe or moderate problem.”

24 percent: The ranks of white respondents who gave the same answer.

Some other challenges …

The Environment:

“Air pollution has thinned significantly since the decline of steel making in southwestern Pennsylvania. The heavy smoke and smell of sulfur have dissipated. And ground level ozone pollution levels fell to within federal standards last year for the first time in decades,” pollsters wrote. “Still, Allegheny County remains one of the few U.S. counties that fail to meet health-based limits on fine particulate pollution. And public concern is rising, the survey suggests.”

32 percent: The percentage of respondents who think the region’s air quality is a problem in the new survey.

47 percent: The percentage of respondents who didn’t see air quality as an issue in 2011.

Nearly 45 percent: The ranks of respondents aged 18-29 who describe the region’s air quality as a “severe or moderate” problem.

24 percent: The ranks of respondents aged 65 and older who gave the same answer.

“Their heightened concern extends to the quality of their drinking water and the water in the region’s streams and rivers,” pollsters wrote. “Only 34.5 percent of county residents believe their drinking water is problem-free. That’s a steep drop in confidence compared to 2011, when 61 percent didn’t think there was a problem. Since 2011, water quality became a prominent national issue, particularly after the widely reported lead contamination of drinking water in Flint, Mich.”

Source: University of Pittsburgh Quality of Life Survey (Screen Capture)

86 percent: The percentage of Pittsburgh residents who say “the quality of drinking water is a problem to some degree compared to 54 percent of those who live outside the city,” pollsters wrote.

“More residents are also concerned about the quality of the region’s streams and rivers. Some 57 percent feel pollution in streams and rivers is a severe or moderate compared to 47 percent seven years earlier,” they continued. “Today, less than 14 percent believe pollution isn’t a problem at all in local streams and rivers, a sharp drop in confidence from 2011, when 32 percent saw the region’s waterways as problem free.”

Transportation:

The fire that shut down Pittsburgh’s Liberty Bridge in 2016 has thrust transportation concerns to the front of the local consciousness, pollsters found.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Quality of Life survey (Screen Capture)

57 percent: The percentage of respondents who say the area’s roads and bridges are a serious problem.

27 percent: The percentage of respondents who said the same thing in 2011.

86 percent: The percentage of respondents who support “spending more for repairs … [T]he most popular way to pay for it is with money from other government funds, not higher gasoline taxes, vehicle registration fees and tolls,” pollsters found.

“More county residents frequently ride public transportation than before. Some 21 percent say they ride buses and rail at least five days a week compared to 15 percent who said they ride that frequently in the previous survey. The rate of people who never take public transit dropped from 44 percent to 38 percent,” the poll found.

Education:

Years of mass shootings across the United States since the last Pitt survey in 2011 had a predictable effect on residents’ perceptions of school safety.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Quality of Life survey (Screen Capture)

25 percent: The percentage of Allegheny County residents who feel schools are “very safe,” according to the poll.

41 percent: The percentage of Allegheny County residents who gave the same answer in 2011.

4 percent: The percentage that feel schools are “very unsafe.” That number has held steady from poll to poll.

30 percent: The percentage of male respondents who say schools are very safe.

19 percent: Women respondents who answered the same way.

26 percent: The percentage of white respondents who said schools are “very safe.”

16 percent: The ranks of African-American respondents who said the same thing.

“Allegheny County residents also express more concern about the level of funding for schools. Nearly 40 percent overall believe it is generally or completely inadequate,” pollsters found. “In 2011, 33 percent felt that way. African American families are more likely to say school funding is falling short: 56 percent of African Americans describe it as generally or completely inadequate compared to 37 percent of white families.

“And 53 percent of city of Pittsburgh residents feel funding for schools is inadequate while 33 percent of residents outside the city share that view,” the poll found.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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