UCSB pollsters discovered that North County residents, contrary to popular political mythology, are more concerned about the rate of growth than their South County counterparts, more inclined to protect ag lands and open space, and nearly as inclined to support a host of pro-environmental attitudes.
The operative stereotype about North County residents is that they’re far more conservative than residents of the south and more open to growth and development. But according to a survey of 804 county residents conducted by UCSB’s Social Science Survey Center, 33 percent of North County respondents expressed concern that development was proceeding “too fast,” as compared to 29 percent in the South County. Likewise, 64 percent of the North County respondents said they’d support a requirement that new developments proposed outside existing urban boundaries be subject to ballot-box approval. Among South County respondents, it was 60 percent.
The high cost of housing was cited as the number-one community problem by respondents on both sides of the Gaviota Tunnel, but by far more — 34 percent — in the south than the 19 percent in the north. County-wide, 40 percent of the respondents said they’d prefer new suburban-style housing development that spread out, as opposed to the 23 percent who said they’d rather have taller, more densely packed urban development. In the debate among South Coast environmentalists over building up or out, it’s been assumed that younger residents are more open to higher-density urban development than their older counterparts. However, the UCSB survey results do not bear this out. Younger residents, however, may have been underrepresented because the pollsters called people on their home phone numbers as opposed to their cell phones.