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Recent Survey Finds Faith in Cambridge Covid-19 Response

City Council Meeting
Ryan N. Gajarawala

At the weekly scheduled meeting of the Cambridge City Council, which met on Monday evening in the Sullivan Chamber, Cambridge residents spoke about the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act of India.

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In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and longstanding issues such as an affordable housing shortage, Cambridge residents remain confident in the city government’s leadership, according to a recent survey.

The findings originate from the biennial City of Cambridge Resident Telephone Survey, conducted by Polity Research Consulting. Using a sample size of 400 randomly selected adult residents, the survey was conducted in September 2020 and published in October. The City Manager’s Office released the study results for public view during Jan. 4 City Council meeting.

Even during a global pandemic, the 2020 data indicates improvement from the last survey, which was released in 2018. Overall satisfaction with city services is at a 20-year high, rising to 60 percent from 55 percent in 2018.

“I believe this reflects our highly capable and extremely dedicated workforce and the focus they place on the initiatives and priorities of the Council,” City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said in a Jan. 4 press release. “I want to thank City staff for their commitment to our community and for their hard work.”

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The 2020 version of the survey included a new slate of questions relating to the coronavirus pandemic. When asked if they thought the city’s response to Covid-19 was effective, 81 percent of respondents agreed. Thirty-eight percent labeled the response “excellent” and 43 percent said it was “good.”

About three-quarters of the sample stated that they followed public health Covid-19 guidelines “a lot.” Nineteen percent said they follow “some” of the guidelines. Five percent answered that they follow guidelines to a lesser degree.

For information on the pandemic, respondents overwhelmingly indicated that they trust the state government and Cambridge City officials more than the federal government. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they trust the Massachusetts State government the most when it comes to Covid-19, while 24 percent rely on the city government. Twenty-six percent of those surveyed said that the state and local government responses are equally trustworthy. Just four percent said they trust the federal government the most.

Job security among residents has been heavily affected by the pandemic. Thirty-two percent of respondents reported some loss of employment in their household since the beginning of pandemic lockdowns in March.

According to the survey, Cambridge residents of color experienced disproportionate job loss during the pandemic. Forty-five percent of African American respondents reported some loss of employment, which is thirteen percentage points higher than the overall rate among respondents. Sixty-four percent of Hispanic respondents also experienced some form of job loss, twice the overall rate.

Despite the pandemic, the most important issue facing the city is the lack of affordable housing, according to those surveyed. When asked about access to affordable housing, just one percent of residents described it as “excellent.” Thirty percent indicated that affordable housing is the issue affecting them most, as well as the top issue they want the city to address. Covid-19, however, was seen by 17 percent of respondents as the most critical.

The Cambridge City Council passed a long-debated affordable housing overlay zoning petition last fall that streamlines the permitting process for units that are deemed 100 percent affordable.

DePasquale and other city officials hope to incorporate the survey findings into actionable policy, according to the release.

“I expect to work closely with City departments to further analyze the results to incorporate relevant insights into priorities and future work plans, and the overall budget process,” DePasquale said. “I anticipate that the survey results will be a valuable tool for the Council and the public to understand community issues.”

—Staff writer Ryan S. Kim can be reached at ryan.kim@thecrimson.com.

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