AKRON (Sept. 29, 2009) – A Gallup study of the Akron area and 25 other U.S. communities has found that the worst economic crisis in decades is not a key factor in residents' passion and loyalty for their community.
“While the pain from the recession is deep, other factors far outweigh economics when it comes to determining how emotionally attached people are to their communities,” said Warren Wright, managing partner for Gallup, which conducted the study with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
In fact in 2009, as the national and regional economy faltered, emotional attachment to the Akron area was steady, according to the year two findings of the three-year study.
The study pinpointed three main factors that emotionally connect residents to Akron: social offerings (fun places to gather), aesthetics (an area’s physical beauty and green spaces) and openness (how welcoming a place is)
The study found that aesthetics, particularly the parks, playgrounds and trails, and the education system, particularly local colleges and universities, are community strengths.
“Our stunning parks and top notch higher education offerings have long been a strength for the people of Akron,” said Vivian Celeste Neal, Akron program director for Knight Foundation, “Now we also know through research that our aesthetics is one of main reasons why residents love living here.”
The study also found that the Akron area needs to be seen as more open, particularly to young, talented college graduates who can help fortify the region’s economic future, to further encourage resident attachment to the area.
“The findings are particularly important in a globalized economy made more competitive by the economic crisis,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives. “Local leaders, urban planners and residents can use the study’s results to better understand their community – and strengthen it to be a destination where people want to live, work and play.”
While the current economic crisis doesn't seem to make a difference in residents' love for their community, the study found that positive feelings do have a connection to local GDP growth over a longer-term period.
The Soul of the Community study was designed to explore this connection between economic growth and residents’ emotional attachment to their community. The latest results suggest a significant correlation between the two.
Within a smaller microcosm, 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. Researchers continue to explore if the emotional connection to the place where one lives drives economic growth for these communities in a similar way.
The communities surveyed vary in population size, economic levels and how urban or rural they are. Gallup randomly surveyed a representative sample of more than 10,000 adults from Feb. 17 to April 25, 2009, by phone.
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., Wichita, Kan.
For complete survey findings on Akron, visit www.soulofthecommunity.org/akron.
Gallup has studied human nature and behavior for more than 70 years. Gallup's reputation for delivering relevant, timely, and visionary research on what people around the world think and feel is the cornerstone of the organization. Gallup employs many of the world's leading scientists in management, economics, psychology, and sociology, and our consultants assist leaders in identifying and monitoring behavioral economic indicators worldwide. Gallup's 2,000 professionals deliver services at client organizations, through the Web, at Gallup University's campuses, and in 40 offices around the world.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.