NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Hampton Roads residents are optimistic about their finances, but have mixed views of the region’s economy overall.

That’s according to the 13th annual Life in Hampton Roads report from the Social Science Research Center at Old Dominion University, based on 639 telephone surveys completed between May 31 and Aug. 19.

The purpose of the survey, according to the research center, is to gain insight into how residents view their quality of life in Hampton Roads, as well as their perceptions of police, politics, the economy, education, health and COVID-19, transportation and other issues.

While it said the switch back to a telephone survey from online web panels in 2020 and a mix of online and telephone calls in 2021 make it more limiting to compare this year’s data to previous years, it was weighted to match city population distributions on different variables, including race, Hispanic ethnicity, age and gender, and access to broadband.

The region’s residents had mixed perceptions of the economy, with 42.4% surveyed rating economic conditions in Hampton Roads as either excellent (3.1%) or good (39.3%). A similar percentage, 42%, rated the region’s economy as fair, and 14.6% rated it poor. It said despite COVID-19 impacts, the ratings are not significantly different than in past years.

Just 27.8% of residents said they were better off financially compared to last year, with 44.9% saying they were about the same, and 26.5% saying they and their family were worse off. The research center said it shows a slightly less positive view of residents’ financial standing compared to last year.

The report said residents are showing some optimism for the future and think they will be better off financially (42.9%). A similar percentage (41.6%) think they will be the same and 12% believe they will be worse off.

They are less hopeful about buying a house, with more than 65% saying it is a bad time to buy a house – just 14.7% say it is a good time. Last year, just 41.3% said it was a bad time to buy a house. The report stated that “these shifting sentiments perhaps reflect the impacts of rising interest rates and higher home prices.”

More than half of those who responded thought inflation would be higher a year from now.

Those employed full time increased by just over 6%, from 47.8% to 54.1%, with nearly 1 in 4 respondents retired, 6% were not employed but looking for work, and 4% were not employed and not looking for work.

About 3 in 5 respondents are working outside the home or are not telecommuting, with 12.1% either working from home and either teleworking or telecommuting, with a burnout rating of 4.8 on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning not being burned out at all and a 10 meaning completely burned out.

More than 77% of those who responded said they had not changed employers in the past year, while just over 22% had, with more than 67% saying they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the idea of searching for a new job with another employer in the next year.

Also, 68% of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed they are satisfied with their overall compensation at their present job.

On traffic, just 20% rated it as either excellent or good, with 78.6% rating it either fair (49.2%) or poor (29.4%), and 37.8% of respondents said they avoided visiting a business in a neighboring city in the past month due to tolls on bridges or tunnels.

Respondents rated the region’s arts and cultural activities in Hampton Roads as either excellent (22.3%) or good (50.6%) and more than half (53.4%) have visited a historical site, museum or monument in the region in the last year.

Percentage rating quality of life in their city as good or excellent

  • Virginia Beach – 85%
  • Suffolk – 81.6%
  • Chesapeake – 79.8%
  • Newport News – 70%
  • Hampton – 57.4%
  • Norfolk – 55.4%
  • Portsmouth – 23.8%

Percent reporting avoiding a business in neighboring city in the past month due to traffic congestion concerns

  • Portsmouth – 54.8%
  • Norfolk – 54.5%
  • Chesapeake 45.2%
  • Suffolk – 41%
  • Hampton – 34.4%
  • Virginia Beach – 28.3%
  • Newport News – 21.5%

Politically, more respondents this year identified as independent – 29.7% in 2021 versus 40.7% in 2022, while those identifying as either Republican or Democrat dropped, though more leaned Democrat than Republican.

Respondents attitudes toward President Joe Biden’s job performance were down from the 2021 survey, with those strongly approving of his job performance dropping from 14.7% to 4.3%. This year, 35.2% approve of Biden’s job performance, with 48.4% either disapproving (25.3%) or strongly disapproving (23.1%) of the president’s job performance.

Opinions of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s performance, it said, were mixed, though at the time of the survey, he had been governor for only several months – 43.7% approving or strongly approving of his job performance and 34.9% disapproving or strongly disapproving of his job performance.

It said responses were “relatively strong” about mayoral job approval.

Mayoral approval (percent strongly approve or approve of mayor job performance)

  • Newport News – 60.8%
  • Suffolk – 59%
  • Virginia Beach – 57.7%
  • Chesapeake – 56.3%
  • Hampton – 54.1%
  • Norfolk – 49.1%
  • Portsmouth – 31%

Though 72% of respondents reported being somewhat or very satisfied with the police – relatively consistent over the past several years, according to the report – negative experiences with police varied widely, with 59% of African American respondents knowing someone who had a serious negative interaction with the police, 20% higher than for whites.

For the first time, the survey asked people about what sources of information they go to for local news. Internet sites, social media or blogs were the top sources for respondents at 64%, followed by local television news or talk shows (55.7%), radio news or talk shows (40.4%), newspapers (25.3% and other/don’t know/no sources (8.9%).

There was a wide variation of respondents in the seven cities who rated their public schools as good or excellent:

  • Virginia Beach – 73%
  • Chesapeake – 72.8%
  • Newport News – 62.1%
  • Suffolk – 41.7%
  • Hampton – 34.5%
  • Portsmouth – 32.4%
  • Norfolk – 22.2%

On the quality of medical and health care in the region, 73.6% of respondents rated it either excellent (24.7%) or good (48.9%), though more residents believed that mental illness was a moderate (44.9%) or serious problem (36%).

Survey demographics

Of the 639 people interviewed, 58.2% were white, 28% Black or African American and 8.1% of another race/ethnicity, and 42.7% men and 56% female, with 0.6% prefering to self-identify.

The complete report can be found here.