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.
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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.
“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.
For complete survey findings, visit www.soulofthecommunity.org.
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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 informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
Contact: Paul Wiseman
Phone: (O) 305-860-1000, ext. 124 or (C) 407-463-6470
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.