by Max Brantley
The Walton billions are now being used by the Walton Family Foundation to gauge the mood in Northwest Arkansas.
The foundation has announced new regular surveying of Washington and Benton counties, the Walmart home territory, on quality of life.
Survey report here. Summary:
Overall, respondents said they were generally happy and believe they have a high quality of life but would like to see more affordable high-quality pre-K options, cheaper and more frequent flights to more destinations and less traffic.
And a winning football team, if only they'd been asked.
Drilling down in the report produces some interesting, if not necessarily revelatory findings. For example: Better educated, wealthier residents were more likely to have visited the Walton-funded Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Lower income people were better represented in usage of the Walton
-financed supported Jones Center in Springdale.
Education, a pet foundation issue, was covered, of course. Most residents are happy with their schools. About half say they favor "school choice." Choice is, naturally, undefined. It's a positive word and can mean just about whatever the hearer wants it to mean. I'm for choice, if by choice you mean being supportive of quality private schools for those who choose them. I'm not for public tax money going to those private schools, however. A mere 50 percent rating for "choice," in one sense, doesn't strike me as that high.
Survey says 60 percent of respondents believed ethnic diversity made NWA a better place to live. I'd like to see the pollsters in the future ask respondents if the area's overwhelmingly white population is a positive or a negative factor in their evaluation of the region. Just curious.
Even before the guns in church, secret gun permits, fetal gun protection and guns in campus bills, 98 percent of the people in Washington/Benton said they felt safe in their homes.
Also: 78 percent said they favored Rep. Justin Harris' bill to allow fetuses to carry semi-automatic rifles in church.*