MIAMI, FLA. (Sept. 29, 2009) – A Gallup study of 26 U.S. communities has found that the worst economic crisis in decades is not a key factor in attracting and retaining residents.
“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, a community’s social offerings (fun places to gather), its physical beauty and its openness to new and different people are most important to making residents love where they live, the study found.
"The findings are particularly important in a globalized economy, where cities are fighting for the talented workers they need for a vibrant workforce and economy," said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives. "Local leaders, city officials and residents can use this information 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.
The Soul of the Community survey was designed to explore this connection between economic growth and residents’ emotional attachment to their community. The latest results, from year two of the three-year study, 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. Gallup’s previous work in U.S. communities and abroad shows that in fact emotional connection does drive economic growth.
In addition, the study also made several conclusions that will interest leaders concerned with keeping top workers:
- Openness to college graduates continues to be a challenge for the communities studied, and an obstacle to stemming brain drain and keeping talented students in town after graduation day;
- New residents are the least attached of any demographic group to their community – and were even less attached in 2009, as compared to the previous year;
- Residents who are more satisfied with their jobs are more likely to have an emotional connection to their community.
Knight Foundation is already funding projects with direct ties to the study’s recommendations.
For example, in Tallahassee, where social offerings is the #1 driver of community attachment, Knight Foundation funded the first Tallahassee Film Festival and the Get Gaines Going project, which is revitalizing a main thoroughfare. These efforts to create cultural spaces where residents can meet and create a sense of place are particularly important to the capitol city, which wants to entice its local college graduates to stay in the area, build a career and help diversify the local economy.
“A creative and diverse workforce is the key to Tallahassee’s future. With guidance from the Soul of the Community study, we can continue to find ways to get there by attracting new talent and keeping our local college graduates in town,” said Mike Pate, Knight Foundation’s Tallahassee program director.
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, visit www.soulofthecommunity.org.
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.