USF’s McCarthy Center Releases First Bay Area Regional Survey

SAN FRANCISCO—(June 15, 2011)

Ever wondered what Bay Area residents think about pension reform? How about their trust levels of local, state, and federal government? Or what they cite as the most crucial issue keeping them awake at night? Those are some of the questions tackled in the first ever survey conducted by the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at the University of San Francisco (USF). Findings of the survey were released today and gauge the pulse of residents from across the Bay Area on a range of key issues.

  • The Economy: The state of the economy is by far the most pressing issue on the minds of Bay Area residents. In an open-ended question, more than one-third of those surveyed listed the economy, employment, or the high cost of living as the most important problems facing the residents of their community. Ambivalent about the future, respondents are worried about the economy and the security of their jobs, but are not wholly pessimistic—with 38% of respondents indicating that they believe the economy is getting either “somewhat” or “much” better.

Showing the Bay Area’s liberal leanings, respondents overwhelmingly preferred improving education and technical training in local community colleges (86% positive), rather than depending on tax breaks to stimulate the economy. Surprisingly, the survey found only 12% favored policies that involved government acquisition of land to be resold to private developers. Fully 67% of Bay Area respondents oppose what is a standard component of redevelopment policy. This is a particularly notable finding in light of current state efforts to drastically alter local redevelopment institutions.

  • Trust in Government: With the turbulent economy and recent headlines about local, state, and national politicians, the McCarthy Center survey examined how Bay Area citizens viewed all levels of government. Local government earned highest marks when respondents were asked which form of government did its job best: Federal (12%), State (6%), County 15%), or Local (22%). Overall, Bay Area residents seem to want local solutions from people they trust to help stimulate the economy, without giving up too much of their own power in the process.
  • Pension Reform: On the issue of pension reform, the survey results showed people are receptive to moderate changes in public employee pension systems, and want some version of reform, but there is no clear preference for eliminating the current system entirely.

Conducted June 1-7, 2011, The McCarthy Center’s Bay Area Regional Survey is comprised of nearly 1,200 respondents over the age of 18 in eight Bay Area counties. Those surveyed were randomly selected from across the Bay Area, representing a full cross-section of age, ethnicity, and socio-economic standing. Surveys were taken of adult residents in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties. In addition to the base sample, the report includes an over-sample of San Francisco County.  Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish (11% of the sample) and residents were contacted by landline or cell phone (10% of the sample).

“We are proud of this inaugural survey because it is one of the few public interest research projects that focuses entirely on the Bay Area,” said Corey Cook, associate professor of politics and director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at USF. “Because of the diverse nature of the Bay Area, it is especially important to gather a wide sampling of opinions from across the region that will help educate and inform our communities. We’ll be able to better understand how the Bay Area thinks about important public policy issues, not just as a whole, but down to the city and county level as well.”

“The McCarthy Center has a keen interest in linking the public with strong academic work,” said David C. Latterman, associate director of the Public Affairs and Practical Politics (MoPA) Graduate Program and McCarthy Political Research Center at the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good. “We wish to be an integral part of the city and region's public policy decision making, which comes through knowledge of how stakeholders think.  Because we are of the City, we see it as our duty to add value our own surroundings with research that can inform and advise.”

About the Leo T. McCarthy Center

The Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good is dedicated to inspiring and equipping students at USF to pursue lives and careers of ethical public service and service to others. The Center provides a non-partisan forum for education, service and research in public programs and policy-making. It supports undergraduate and graduate academic programs, including a Masters’ Program in Public Affairs and an undergraduate Minor in Public Service through curricula that blends rigorous intellectual training with fieldwork experience prepares students to articulate and promote the common good of all society's members through careers or service in government, non-profits or the private sector. Additionally, the McCarthy Center provides community-based learning opportunities both domestically and abroad and facilitates government experiences for students.

The McCarthy Center values civic engagement and seeks to promote public interest research that encourages civil discourse and constructive interaction among the great diversity of residents and officials in the Bay Area. The Center strives to accomplish its goals by being transparent, nonpartisan and rigorous in designing its work and products.

About the University of San Francisco

Established in 1855, USF is San Francisco’s oldest university and is consistently ranked as one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the country. The University of San Francisco is committed to being a premier Jesuit Catholic, urban university with a global perspective that educates leaders who will fashion a more humane and just world. With nearly 9,600 students enrolled both on- and off-campus, the university offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional students the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as persons and professionals, and the values and sensitivity necessary to be men and women for others. For more information about the University of San Francisco, please visit

For more information about the McCarthy Center’s Bay Area Regional Survey, please visit To request interviews with the research team for this survey, please contact Anne-Marie Devine, director of Media Relations at USF, at 415.422.2697 or