Published: 08 June 2012 06:02 PM

A new survey shows that San Bernardino County residents continue to have a gloomy outlook on the area’s economic prospects, posing a challenge for elected officials as they decide how to balance spending on everything from major freeway projects to local parks.

“Our respondents are really not getting the message that things are rosy in the Inland Empire,” said Barbara Sirotnik, co-author with Shel Bockman of the 15th annual study by the Institute of Applied Research and Policy Analysis at Cal State San Bernardino.

About 68 percent of the 1,063 survey respondents don’t believe they will be better off in the coming year — the highest percentage in the past six years.

Cole Madison, 44, who works in downtown San Bernardino, said “lots of people out of work and too few jobs” in the county are the biggest factors influencing people’s pessimistic outlook.

“Until people get back to work, it’s not going to change,” he said.

The phone survey, conducted between Feb. 17 and March 3, is sponsored by San Bernardino Associated Governments, Cal State San Bernardino and the county. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

“Public officials need data to make informed decisions,” Bockman said, noting that officials can use the responses to some questions for guidance on the amenities people are demanding.

Sirotnik agreed, pointing out that the survey identifies areas for improvement.

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