Got Love For Your Community?
It May Create Economic Growth, Gallup Study Says.
Gallup-Knight Foundation study finds unexpected factors cause people to love where they live; suggests new approaches to improving communities.
MIAMI (Nov. 15, 2010) – A three-year Gallup study of 26 U.S. cities has found that peoples’ love and passion for their community may be a leading indicator for local economic growth. Surprisingly, social offerings, openness and beauty are far more important than peoples’ perceptions of the economy, jobs or basic services in creating a lasting emotional bond between people and their community.
The 26 cities in the survey with the highest levels of resident love and passion for their community, or resident attachment, also had the highest rates of GDP growth over time.
“This study is important because its findings about emotional attachment to place point to a new perspective that we encourage leaders to consider; it is especially valuable as we aim to strengthen our communities during this tough economic time,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives.
What did the 2010 study say about Fort Wayne?
Overall attachment is significantly higher to the Fort Wayne area in 2010, including significant increases in community loyalty and community passion.
In the Fort Wayne area, social offerings (entertainment infrastructure, places to meet people, community events), 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 is perceived as a community strength and is rated significantly higher in 2010. In particular, residents rated parks, playgrounds and trails highly.
Social offerings, particularly residents caring about each other, and openness, particularly to young talent, are areas of needed improvement to increase resident attachment. Residents 18-34 years of age are least attached to the Fort Wayne area.
Ratings of the local economy increased in 2010; however the economy is still not a key factor emotionally connecting residents to their community. Reports of civic involvement was significantly lower in 2010.
- Fort Wayne, IN, MSA, Findings
- Overall Study Findings
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- Study: Loving Where You Live May Help Your Local Economy
- Learn how three communities are using the study and Knight Foundation support
“This survey offers new approaches for communities to organize themselves to attract businesses, keep residents and holistically improve their local economic vitality,” said Jon Clifton, deputy director of the Gallup World Poll, who conducted the survey with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Three community qualities – social offerings, openness and beauty – have consistently emerged as the leading drivers for community attachment over the study’s three years of research. They beat out other possible drivers such as perceptions of local economy, leadership and safety across all of the 26 cities included in the Knight Soul of the Community survey.
The Knight Soul of the Community survey explores the connection between local economic growth and peoples’ emotional bond to a place. Three years of survey data clearly show a significant, positive link between resident attachment and local GDP growth.
“Our theory is that when a community’s residents are highly attached, they will spend more time there, spend more money, they’re more productive and tend to be more entrepreneurial,” Clifton said. “The study bears out that theory and now provides all community leaders the knowledge they need to make a sustainable impact on their community.”
Within a smaller environment, such as a company, Gallup has been able to show that increasing employees’ emotional connection to their company leads to improved financial performance of the organization. Experts continue to explore if the emotional connection to the place where one lives drives economic growth for these communities in a similar way. Gallup’s previous work in U.S. communities and abroad shows that in fact emotional connection does drive economic growth.
Despite declines in the economy since the study was begun in 2008, the researchers found some surprising constants:
- · The things that create the greatest emotional connection between people and their community – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have remained stable for three years and are consistent among the 26 cities studied. These three things reliably rated highest among 10 drivers of resident attachment, which also included: civic involvement, social capital, education, perception of the local economy, leadership, safety, emotional well-being and basic services.
- · The link between local GDP and residents’ emotional bonds to a place has remained steady despite declines in the economy over the three years of the study. Communities with residents who are more attached to a place show stronger growth even in tough economic times.
- · People’s perception of their community’s performance in social offerings, openness and beauty has a greater impact on their emotional bonds to a place than their demographic characteristics.
- · Perception of the local economy is not a leading reason residents create an emotional bond to a place.
Leaders in three of the 26 cities surveyed – Miami, Charlotte and Detroit – already have plans in place to use the findings to help transform their communities. For example, The Miami Foundation, formerly Dade Community Foundation, will use the research to identify needs specific to the South Florida region – and address them through advocating for public policy changes or taking direct action. For more on those three projects, which are supported by Knight Foundation, visit www.kflinks.com/sotcgrants.
The cities surveyed were chosen because the Knight brothers owned newspapers in those cities. They vary in population size, economic levels and how urban or rural they are. Gallup randomly surveyed 43,000 adults by phone from 2008 to 2010.
The following communities were included in the survey: Aberdeen, S.D.; Akron, Ohio; Biloxi, Miss.; Boulder, Colo.; Bradenton, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Detroit, Mich.; Duluth, Minn.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Gary, Ind.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Lexington, Ky.; Long Beach, Calif.; Macon, Ga.; Miami, Fla.; Milledgeville, Ga.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Jose, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; State College, Pa.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Wichita, Kan.