SARASOTA — Sustaining a near-perfect level of treating residents with respect is difficult, so it’s not surprising to see a decline in that level this year.

Sarasota County commissioners learned Wednesday that only 95 percent of residents surveyed for the 2018 annual citizens survey felt they had been treated with respect in their interaction with the county.

In 2017, 99 percent of the respondents indicated they’d been treated with respect.

In making the presentation to commissioners, Sarah Treichler Lindemuth, the senior research director at the research firm HCP, said the county could be very satisfied with those results.

Despite that decline, a healthy majority, 97 percent still perceive the quality of life in Sarasota County as either excellent or good, the same result as the preceding two years. The only difference from last year is a continued, slight drop-off in the excellent rating while good increased slightly.

For the fourth straight year, population growth and new development topped the list of most important issues facing the county, followed by crime and transportation/traffic.

Lindemuth said probing into the transportation issued didn’t reveal any specific details, only that traffic was bad everywhere.

The addition of crime as a top issue was surprising, but Lindemuth attributed that to an uptick in media stories which tend to bring more attention to the issue she said.

She did point out one other detail about top issues, which was that 19 percent of the respondents indicated there were no serious problems in the county.

“That’s a very strong number,” Lindemuth said.

The survey also delved into what residents perceived as threats to the quality of life in the county, and here, 37 percent of the respondents said jobs and the lack of industry was the single greatest threat.

Commissioner Mike Moran, to whom this is a huge issue, was quick to pick up on this point, saying the county has allocated $23 million over the last nine years to the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County resulting in the creation of 27 jobs.

“We need to have a deep conversation on this, hopefully in December,” Moran said.

“This is really helpful,” Commissioner Charles Hines said. “This gives us good information for when we set our priorities.”

The opinion poll was conducted earlier this summer using a random sampling of 800 residents. Survey questions sought residents’ opinions on a variety of topics germane to the county including the economy, jobs, quality of life and services provided by the county.

This is the 27th year the county has conducted the survey, which sets benchmarks for the county, and gives county leaders an indication of trending data along with residents’ perceptions about how well the county is doing.

As is customary with the county, the actual survey and its companion executive summary will be available on the county’s website around Sept. 20.

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