Mecklenburg County is a good place for single adults and families to live, an annual survey by UNC Charlotte found. But residents said it’s not so great for gays, immigrants and racial minorities.
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute has conducted its annual survey of county residents for more than 30 years. In January, it posed questions by phone to 400 people who represent a cross-section of the county.
One of those questions: “When thinking about Mecklenburg County as a place to live and the opportunities and amenities it provides, how would you rate Mecklenburg County for the following groups of people?”
Majorities called the county good or excellent for single adults, families with children and young adults entering the workforce. Only 9 to 12 percent ranked it poor or very poor for those people.
But the outlook dims for other groups.
A quarter of the residents surveyed said Mecklenburg is a poor or very poor place for gay or lesbian people. Twenty-three percent said the same for immigrants from other countries, and 22 percent ranked the county poorly for racial and ethnic minorities.
The responses show marked changes since 2008, when the Urban Institute posed the same question. That year, 14 percent of people surveyed said Mecklenburg was a poor or very poor place for gays and immigrants to live. Thirteen percent said that of racial and ethnic minorities.
“It’s all about the context of the times,” said Diane Gavarkavich, the Urban Institute’s director of research services. “It’s what’s going on in the community and what you’re hearing about.”
In the months before the January survey, protests roiled Charlotte’s streets after the police shooting of a black man, Keith Lamont Scott. The ACC and NCAA pulled championship games over House Bill 2, later repealed, which prevented transgender people from using government-run bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. And Donald Trump was elected president after an “America first” campaign in which his opponents saw racial and ethnic overtones.
A widely cited 2014 study by Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley, meanwhile, had found that it’s harder for poor children in Charlotte to climb out of poverty than in any other large U.S. city.
Racial differences emerged in the survey. While 44 percent of white respondents said Mecklenburg is a good or excellent place for racial and ethnic minorities, only 29 percent of black and Hispanic respondents agreed. While that split is statistically significant, Gavarkavich said, the number of black and Hispanic residents surveyed wasn’t big enough to represent the county as a whole.
The 400 total residents surveyed give the results a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
The survey also uncovered a downbeat assessment of how seniors view Mecklenburg. While 48 percent of residents overall view the county as a good place for seniors, only 35 percent of people 65 and over felt that way.