Economic Anxiety Index On Rise In PA

Economic Anxiety Index On Rise In PA

The latest IssuesPA/Pew Poll shows that Pennsylvanians' anxiety over economic issues has grown significantly over the past year. Poll respondents said they have major concerns about their economic futures, as growing economic anxiety overshadows quality of life issues.

The “Economic Anxiety Index”

Reports that the economy has improved don't resonate with most Pennsylvanians, according to the poll results. When asked about their levels of concern on 5 key indicators – affording necessary healthcare, being able to save for retirement, maintaining their current standard of living, losing or not affording their homes, and losing a job or taking a pay cut – more Pennsylvanians are reporting high anxiety than just one year ago. According to the “Economic Anxiety Index,” the percentage of Pennsylvanians reporting high economic anxiety has increased 12 points since one year ago.

Trend in Pennsylvanians' Economic Anxiety Level
High Anxiety34 percent22 percent
Medium33 percent35 percent
Low33 percent43 percent


Though there are pockets where anxiety is lower, no region is immune from the spreading anxiety. Across all five regions of the state, about half of those polled report being very concerned about the impact that rising health care costs and inadequate retirement savings will have on their future.

“The survey finds a significant increase in Pennsylvanians' concerns about their future economic prospects,” said Larry Hugick, Chairman of Princeton Survey Research Associates International, who conducted the IssuesPA/Pew Poll. “The level of concern is such that I haven't seen nationally since the early 1990s.”

Regional Divisions Too Great to Ignore

When it comes to quality of life and economic concerns, three different Pennsylvanias emerge.

  • City of Philadelphia – about 13percent of the state's population;
  • South Central Pennsylvania plus the “outside Philadelphia” portion of Southeastern Pennsylvania – together about 33percent of the state's population; and
  • Southwest and Northeast Pennsylvania and the “Rest of State” – in total about 54percent of the state's population.

In the City of Philadelphia, residents report the most threats to their quality of life. Majorities of Philadelphia city residents cite crime (65percent), a lack of jobs/economic opportunities (61percent), traffic congestion (56percent), and keeping taxes down (51percent) as big problems.

In the Southwest, Northeast, and rest of the state, aging cities and towns and rural areas mark the landscape and economic concerns dominate. The largest number of respondents (62percent) name jobs and economic opportunities as big problems, followed by the level of taxes (52percent).

In the South Central region and Southeast Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia, which are dominated by suburbs and small towns, the three top concerns are traffic congestion (53percent biggest problem), the level of taxes (47percent), and difficulties preserving open space and farmland (44percent). Here, residents are dealing with the problems of growth.

“As the legislature and Governor set the agenda for 2005, they must deal with the fact that residents in Pennsylvania's different regions face very different realities,” said Karen Miller, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League's State Office and Managing Director of IssuesPA. “One-size-fits-all policy-making would be a tough sell.”

Pennsylvanians Show Support for Growing Greener II and Aid to Mass Transit

When asked about specific state legislation to be debated in the coming year -- namely state support for local mass transit systems and giving voters the opportunity to approve borrowing $800 million for the Governor's Growing Greener II initiatives – Pennsylvanians were supportive.

Over two-thirds of Pennsylvanians polled favor action by the state legislature to provide new funding for the state's local mass transit systems. In total, 69percent of Pennsylvanians strongly favor or somewhat favor providing new funds to help local mass transit. Support is highest in Southeastern Pennsylvania (76percent) and Southwestern Pennsylvania (71percent) – but remains above 60percent in other parts of the state.

About three-quarters (74percent) of the statewide public say they favor action to give voters the opportunity to approve borrowing $800 million for Growing Greener II. The money would be used for initiatives to preserve open space, reclaim abandoned mines and factory sites for new uses, clean up rivers and streams, and make other improvements to the state's environment.

Economic Development, Tax Reform, Higher Education Top List of Priorities

As Pennsylvanians look toward the future, several issues top their list of concerns, including:

  • Attracting new businesses and expanding current businesses (32percent)
  • Producing a fair and adequate tax system that helps economic growth (19percent)
  • Providing affordable higher education opportunities (16percent)
  • Attracting and retaining young people (15percent).

The IssuesPA/Pew Benchmark Poll is part of a series of public opinion surveys on key issues facing the Commonwealth. The poll of 1,500 Pennsylvanians was conducted between December 2 and December 15 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Visit for detailed results and a complete analysis of the IssuesPA/Pew Poll.

About the Poll: The 2004 IssuesPA/Pew Benchmark Poll, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Economy League and The Pew Charitable Trusts, obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,520 adults living in Pennsylvania telephone households. The interviews were conducted in English by Princeton Data Source, LLC from December 2 to December 15. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±3 percent.

About IssuesPA: IssuesPA is a nonpartisan statewide awareness project focused exclusively on raising the issues most critical to Pennsylvania's economic future. The Pennsylvania Economy League initially launched IssuesPA to promote issue awareness around the 2002 gubernatorial election. Post-election, the project has been transformed into the leading resource on state-level issues and policies in Pennsylvania, coupled with a dynamic, multi-media outreach strategy. IssuesPA is funded in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The William Penn Foundation.