Gallup Soul of the Community logo.

A new Gallup Poll, titled, “Soul of the Community”, examined 26 US Cities in various areas.

From the website:

Great schools, affordable health care and safe streets all help create strong communities. But is there something deeper that draws people to a city – that makes them want to put down roots and build a life?

This study explores a less tangible, yet more profound ingredient: a community’s soul. Conducted by Gallup in 26 cities and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the three-year effort measures the emotional factors that make people passionate about – and loyal to – their communities.

[…] In each community, the Soul of the Community Study identified factors that emotionally bond residents to where they live. Some of these community characteristics were rated highly by residents, and are therefore community strengths while others were rated lower, making them opportunities for improvement. This information can provide communities a roadmap for increasing residents’ emotional attachment to where they live, which the study found has a significant relationship to economic vitality.

General findings:

In the Ft. Wayne area, social offerings (fun places to gather), openness (how welcoming a place is) and aesthetics (an area’s physical beauty and green spaces) are the most important factors emotionally connecting residents to where they live.

Aesthetics and education were perceived as community strengths. In particular, residents rated parks, playgrounds and trails highly, as well as local colleges and universities.

Social offerings (particularly residents caring about each other) and openness (particularly to college graduates and gays and lesbians) were seen as areas needing improvement.

Not surprisingly, ratings of the local economy were down significantly in 2009, however the economy is still not a key factor emotionally connecting residents to their community. Civic involvement (specifically, an increase in voting due to the Presidential election, as well as volunteering) was up significantly in 2009.

Residents who feel a strong emotional connection to the area are most likely to be older, employed part-time or retired, and middle-income residents. Those least likely to be emotionally attached are renting, mid-tenure, non-employed (includes students) and middle-educated residents.

One of the interesting components of the poll focused on our communities leadership.  74% of respondents indicated they did not feel community leaders represent their interests.  Elected city officials did not fare much better at 64%.  Both scores dropped from last year’s poll.

The study does deserve a read through.

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