Dave Scott

With the economy improving, more Summit County residents are looking at crime as the most important issue they face, according to a poll by Akron’s Center for Marketing and Opinion Research LLC.

The group asked 800 county residents, “What would you say is the most important problem facing Summit County right now?” Almost 23 percent cited crime and safety issues, up from 15.3 percent last year and only 7.1 percent in 2011.

The poll was conducted between Feb. 27 and April 6 and has an accuracy of plus or minus 3.5 percent. It was completed before notorious Akron crimes at a fast food restaurant and a public housing unit earlier this month.

The marketing company has conducted the poll since 2007.

“Of all of the years we have been collecting data — we’ve had seven years of data — we have by far the highest percentage who said that crime and safety is the No. 1 problem,” said Amanda Barna, vice president of the Center for Marketing and Opinion Research.

Crime statistics for Akron do not explain why the issue is a rising concern. Total crimes are down 12 percent in the first three months of 2013 when compared with 2012. Crime incidents for all of 2012 (11,842) were down 12 percent when compared with 2011 (13,448).

Employment consistently leads the poll as the county’s biggest concern, but its level has changed radically over the period.

In 2007, at the height of an economic boom, only 25.5 percent cited employment as the major concern. In 2010, when the Great Recession was hurting almost everyone, 49.2 percent cited employment.

Barna pointed out that because poll participants are expected to provide an answer about the county’s biggest problem, some category must go up as the employment issue falls.

“As employment issues are starting to go down, people are becoming more concerned with safety, more so than education or the economic issues like taxes. It is a rising trend,” she said.

Participants between 25 and 44 years old stand out as the crankiest of the respondents on economic issues.

When asked about the availability of job opportunities, they were the group most likely to respond negatively with 43.5 percent. Of those in the 18 to 24 category, only 31.1 percent had a negative response.

The 25-44 group also had the most negative responses to questions about the economy.

When asked about Summit County as a place to live, the poll showed consistent support, staying between 75 and 82 percent for the entire seven years.

The poll also asked residents how they felt health reform would affect their family, but few trends were revealed, perhaps because the full effects of reform have not been implemented. Those saying reform had no effect on them varied between 27 and 33 percent among all age groups. Those saying they did not know ranged in the teens.

The “quality of life” questions preceded marketing issues the Center for Marketing and Opinion research conducted for business customers, including many health-care companies.

Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or davescott@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.