This spring, the University of Alaska worked with the McDowell Group, a research and consulting firm, to conduct a statewide public opinion survey. The survey evaluated Alaskans’ perceptions of a variety of themes, such as confidence in institutions, the economy and their levels of concern for issues like crime and employment.
Monique Musick, public information coordinator for UA Public Affairs, said one of the university’s goals with the survey was to “better understand the mood of Alaskans about the economy and respondents’ views of their confidence in their own economic well-being.”
There were 623 randomly selected households throughout Alaska and the results were then weighted by age and region. Key findings showed that Alaskans rated the current condition of the state’s economy 5.1 on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “very weak” and 10 being “very strong.”
“The questions were designed to help the university understand if Alaskans have confidence in the future, in their state and in their institutions, and what they think about their local community college or university, including what they value most about those institutions,” Musick said.
Out of seven institutions, including the university, local K-12 schools, federal government, state government and the Alaska Legislature, the university received the most confidence from respondents. 28 percent reported significant confidence and 42 percent reported moderate confidence.
“This indicates public confidence in our mission and value,” Musick said.
Respondents rated the lowest confidence for Alaska state government and legislature, reporting 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
McDowell Group has also conducted prior surveys for the university to help analyze public opinion.
Susan Bell, principal at McDowell Group, said a report done in 2016 included an economic impact analysis. It was used to communicate the importance and value of the university to the public as well as the legislature, she said.
This report, published in May of 2016, specifically evaluated the economic impacts of the university by examining the public’s opinions on university revenues, employment and Arctic research. Results indicated that Alaskans saw the university as “very important” (95 percent) to the state of Alaska.
For this year’s survey, 89 percent saw the university as “important” or “very important” to the state of Alaska.
“Prior McDowell Group research clearly identifies financial issues as one of the most important drivers of postsecondary enrollment and completion,” Musick said. “The economy affects the earning power of students, particularly among the significant portion of students who work while attending UA.”
The household survey also noted a significant difference in results concerning respondents’ ratings of their household’s economic well-being: responses correlated with income levels.
Households earning less than $50,000 in annual income were more likely to give low ratings, and those that were in the upper-income bracket were most likely to give high ratings.
McDowell Group reports, including the Household Opinion Survey 2018 and previous analyses, can be found on the University of Alaska website, alaska.edu/alaska.