New survey shows declining optimism around the DC area

The D.C. area is rich in culture, culinary options and things to do. You’re just a few hours drive away from a vacation in the mountains, the forest or the beach. The problem for many people is that you also have to be increasingly rich to afford to live here.

That’s one of the reasons the region is seeing a decline in optimism for the future, at least according to a Gallup poll released this month.

Compared to the last time the survey was taken just before the pandemic, 27% said they are worried about making their rent — it was 8% in 2020.

In all, Gallup surveyed over 2,800 people around the DMV. The region-wide results had a margin of error of +/- 2.8%.

The survey was conducted for the Greater Washington Community Foundation, which found that only 52% of the region would say they’re thriving right now. Another 44% are struggling, and 4% say they’re suffering.

“The number one predictor of whether someone is thriving is whether they feel like they belong in their community — whether their community is a great place for people like them,” said Darius Graham, the managing director of community investment for the GWCF.

He said compared to 2020, that number has gone down a bit.

The survey found significant numbers of people struggling to afford housing, food, medicine and other basic needs, and concern about how high up the economic ladder they can climb. The numbers show that concern has grown even higher among Black and Hispanic residents.

Graham said there’s also less of a connection among people who feel like local governments are responding to their voices and needs.

“More people feel like they have little or no influence over local government decision making,” Graham said. “That feeling of no influence, or little or no influences, has been a big factor for this report.”

“It’s those things taken in totality. People viewing that they don’t have a voice, that changes are not benefiting them or people like them, that really drives this overall lack of optimism,” he added.

All of that isn’t to say that people are down in the District and surrounding areas. Far from it, in fact.

A majority of those surveyed in every part of the region said they believed they were better off today than their parents were at their age. And over 70% of people said they felt the DMV was good for families with children, or for people like themselves.

Majorities also agreed with that notion across all demographics, regardless of residents’ sexuality, gender, race or cultural background.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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