Economists may be forecasting a turnaround for the sagging economy, but that hasn't stopped county residents from worrying.
The economy tops the list of their concerns, according to a survey conducted byAnne Arundel Community College. For the second time in four months, residents have cited economic problems as their main worry.
Yet residents' responses also indicated that they are somewhat optimistic about their future.
"I found that most interesting," saidElizabeth Kessel, director of the college's Center for the Study of Local Issues. "People seem optimistic in their responses.
"But howdo you distinguish between optimism and hope? I think hopefulness iswhat we're seeing. It seems to be that people are hopeful," she added.
Until last October's survey, county residents had listed countygrowth problems as their main concern since 1984.
Taxes and the budget, both economy-driven subjects, ranked second and third among residents in the most recent survey.
The study surveyed 467 residents by telephone between Feb. 3 and 6. The survey has a margin of errorof no more than 5 percent.
When asked if they faced any major problems, 72 percent of the respondents answered yes. Of these, 63.4 percent named problems of an economic nature.
Among other responses:
* 27 percent cited general economic problems.
* 20.1 percent named taxes.
* 10.7 percent listed budget cuts.
* 5.6 percent mentioned education budget cuts.
Overall, 7.2 percent of the respondents listed education as a major concern.
Residents also were askedwhether they thought business conditions were better, worse or aboutthe same as they were a year ago. About 69.8 percent of the respondents thought they were worse; 22.6 percent said conditions were the same; and 3 percent said they were better.
The economy appears to beaffecting many spending decisions. Some 44.5 percent of the respondents recommended waiting before buying, and only 24.5 percent said nowis the time to buy.
However, some residents appear to be optimistic about the future. About 55 percent said they expect to be better off financially one year from now, although 36.1 percent do not believe they will be better off in a year.
And while 56.5 percent said they expect the economy will improve by next year, another 34.9 percent said they do not expect any improvement.
By the year 2000, 46.1 percent of the county's residents believe they will be generally better off.
A second study will be conducted in October. Kessel said she expects economic worries will still be a concern among residents in the fall.
"Until there is some kind of turnaround, I think the economy will be paramount in most people's minds," Kessel said.