Soul of the Community – Knight Foundation

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?

Knight Soul of the Community (SOTC) is a three-year study conducted by Gallup of the 26 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation communities across the United States employing a fresh approach to determine the factors that attach residents to their communities and the role of community attachment in an area’s economic growth and well-being. The study focuses on the emotional side of the connection between residents and their communities.

In its first year, the study compared residents’ attachment level to the GDP growth in the 26 communities over the past five years. The findings showed a significant correlation between community attachment and economic growth. The second year reinforced these findings, and found that nationwide economic troubles did not have a notable impact on attachment locally. In the third year of the study, researchers analyzed the connection between community attachment and economic growth and found that cities with the highest levels of attachment had the highest rate of GDP growth.

The results of the SOTC study identify new approaches to help create transformational change and new possibilities for continued progress in Knight communities. Community leaders can use the study’s findings to maximize community strengths and address challenge areas to improve community attachment and potentially increase local economic growth. The relationship of community attachment to economic development has particular relevance beyond the recent economic crisis as the study’s findings can help leaders include new ideas into the existing economic rebuilding and development conversation.

Gallup interviewed a random, representative sample of 400 adults (age 18+) in each of the 26 Knight communities – nearly 14,000 people each year. In 2010, 15,200 interviews were conducted, with 1,000 conducted in eight focus communities. The 2010 study also included 200 interviews among residents ages 18-34 in the focus communities to give us more information about that age group. Overall data were adjusted to ensure an accurate representation of the real demographic make-up of each community based on U.S. Census Bureau data. The surveys were conducted in English and Spanish. We studied 10 domains that were found to drive community attachment at varying levels:

  • Basic services – community infrastructure
  • Local Economy
  • Safety
  • Leadership and elected officials
  • Aesthetics – physical beauty and green spaces
  • Education systems
  • Social offerings – opportunities for social interaction and citizen caring
  • Openness/welcomeness – how welcoming the community is to different people
  • Civic involvement – residents’ commitment to their community through voting or volunteerism
  • Social capital – social networks between residents

Social offerings, openness and aesthetics are most related to community attachment in all the 26 communities we studied.

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

About Gallup

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 consultants help organizations boost organic growth by increasing customer engagement and maximizing employee productivity through measurement tools, coursework, and strategic advisory services. 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.

The Gallup Poll has built its reputation on delivering relevant, timely, and visionary research on what people around the world think and feel. Gallup Poll consultants assist leaders to identify and monitor behavioral economic indicators worldwide.