The economic crisis has cut deeply into America's economic confidence and optimism about the future. But large majorities of Americans are satisfied with their communities, and a majority are optimistic about the future of the places where they live. That's according to new data released today by Gallup.
More than 8 in 10 Americans tell Gallup they are satisfied with their immediate community. And that percentage doesn't appear to be related to the size of a given metro area. Small (86.2 percent), medium (85.7 percent), and large (85.7 percent) metro areas, on average, have similar levels of satisfaction and optimism.
More than half of Americans also say their city is getting better as a place to live. Again, the variation between large metros (56.9 percent) and small (56.5 percent) and medium-size metros (55.8 percent) is negligible.
The table above shows the ten most and least optimistic metros in the country. Provo-Orem, Utah, tops the list followed by Lafayette, Louisiana; Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina; and Huntsville, Alabama. Among large metros, Austin, Nashville, Dallas, and Oklahoma City also post high levels of optimism. The least optimistic metros, according to Gallup, include Binghamton, New York; Flint, Michigan; Rockford, Illinois; Youngstown, Ohio; and Syracuse, New York. Among large metros, Las Vegas and Detroit are least optimistic.
The second table (above) shows the top and bottom ten metros in community satisfaction. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, tops the list, which also includes San Luis Obispo, California; Provo, Utah; Barnstable, Massachusetts; and Des Moines, Iowa. On the flip side, Flint, Michigan; Rockville, Illinois; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Binghamton, New York; and Memphis, Tennessee number among the ten metros with the lowest levels of community satisfaction.
Community satisfaction is closely tied to several key factors, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey.
After interviewing close to 43,000 people in 26 communities over three years, the study has found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces).
My own research, alongside Charlotta Mellander and Kevin Stolarick of the Martin Prosperity Institute, finds that community satisfaction is closely related to the physical beauty of a community as well as economic security, schools, and the ability for and level of social interaction.
In related research, we also examined the effects of community satisfaction on the decision of residents to stay in their community, finding that the key factors in people's decisions to stay put are the "the beauty and physical appeal of the current location" and the "ability to meet people and make friends."