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Area's Residents Are 'Better Off' but Edgy About Economy, Poll Shows

January 06, 1985|RALPH VARTABEDIAN

Southern Californians are ambivalent about the future of the economy here, despite a robust national economic expansion and moderate inflation, according to a recent survey by the Institute for Social Science Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The survey is the first in what is planned to be an annual opinion sampling on a wide variety of economic and social issues in Southern California, according to John R. Petrocik, the institute's associate director.

Since this year's survey is the first sampling, few clear-cut conclusions can be drawn about whether people's economic expectations are growing optimistic or pessimistic. Nevertheless, the survey shows some "apparent contradictions" in economic outlook, Petrocik said.

An estimated 55% of Los Angeles County residents believe that there will be widespread unemployment and depression within the next five years, according to the survey, titled, "The 1984 Southern California Social Survey."

Even in Orange County, whose residents were the most optimistic about the future, 40% of those surveyed expect widespread unemployment and depression.

At the same time, a vast majority of those surveyed say they are "better off" or "about the same" financially as a year ago and expect that situation to prevail for the next year.

"They are ambivalent and nervous," Petrocik said. "People feel better off. The economy is improving, inflation is down. At the same time, they have hanging over their head" a recent scary experience.

The experience was two major recessions in the past decade that have unsettled expectations that the economy would be fairly stable and grow steadily, a notion that has generally prevailed since World War II.

The institute, which conducts a wide variety of surveys for governments and academic clients, hopes that the survey will become an important resource giving insight into the mood in Southern California. It contends that there is an absence of reliable information about this region and its inhabitants.

"This is the first of a series of surveys that don't have a client," he said. "In essence, the client for this survey is the people of Southern California. We hope to make it an institution around which we can generate some research on Southern California society."

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