What is the Soul of the Community (SOTC) study?
Knight Soul of the Community is a three-year study that explores what community qualities influence residents’ loyalty and passion for where they live and how those feelings may relate to indicators of community well-being such as local economic growth, though more research is needed to determine a correlation.
Funded by Knight Foundation and conducted by Gallup, the study aims to determine the factors driving community attachment so community leaders can ultimately affect this emotional pull and attract and keep talented workers. In a globalized world, where places are competing for the best talent, leaders need to understand what factors matter in attracting people to their community. The study provides insight on these factors.
What are social offerings?
Social offerings is the social infrastructure that allows residents to enjoy their community together.
It comprises vibrant nightlife, good places to meet people and residents caring for one another.
As social offerings is the #1 driver for attachment in all Knight communities in 2010, providing a strong entertainment infrastructure and fostering a sense of community caring should be prioritized.
Who are you giving this information to, and what are your recommendations based on your findings?
We are giving it to community leaders (elected, business, nonprofit, government sectors) and the general public. We find that this information is of interest to many different sectors, so we are trying to disseminate the data as widely as possible. We encourage our communities to find ways to apply this information to their work and let us know what they are thinking about it. We also want folks to explore the raw data for themselves and see what other questions could be answered with the data – and to let us know what they are finding out.
How was the study conducted? Who was included in this 2009 survey?
Gallup interviewed a random, representative sample of 400 adults (age 18+) in most of the 26 communities and 1,000 adults in Akron, Macon, Miami, Philadelphia, San Jose, St. Paul, Charlotte and Detroit; nearly 15,000 people were surveyed in total across the 26 communities from May 27 through Aug. 31, 2010.
Fifteen-minute telephone interviews covering 73 questions were conducted in English and Spanish. Cellphone numbers were included as part of the potential sample.
Data were weighted to reflect the known adult population by age, gender, race and ethnicity based on U.S. Census data within each community.
What are the factors related to community satisfaction?
The Soul of the Community study examined 11 domains with varying degrees of correlation with reported satisfaction with community. In each case, we examined how the respondent’s personal perception of each of these factors was associated with their stated views about their satisfaction with the community.
- Aesthetics: An area’s physical beauty and green spaces.
- Basic services: Infrastructure supports, including highways, housing and health care.
- Civic involvement: Voting, volunteering, attending meetings, and working for change.
- Economy: Local economic and employment conditions.
- Education: Quality of K-12 schooling and local colleges and universities.
- Emotional wellness: The mixture of mental and physical well-being.
- Leadership: Rating of leadership and whether elected officials represent residents’ interests.
- Openness: How welcoming the community is to different types of people.
- Safety: Local crime and safety conditions.
- Social capital: The personal connections residents have to each other.
- Social offerings: Entertainment infrastructure for people to meet each other and how much residents care about each other.
Respondent perceptions of social offerings, openness, social offerings and aesthetics were consistently correlated with self-reported measures of community satisfaction across the Knight communities in all three years of the study.
What are social offerings?
We asked respondents to rate the quality of social offerings in their community—the social infrastructure that allows residents to enjoy their community together, how they perceived elements such as a vibrant nightlife, good places to meet people and residents caring for one another.
What about the results from your survey suggests there is an association between community satisfaction and local economic growth?
Economically troubled communities that have experienced major industrial restructuring tend to have lower levels of reported satisfaction than other communities. Respondent perceptions of job availability were not significantly correlated with expressed community satisfaction.
How do demographics affect community satisfaction?
Demographics play a role in satisfaction. The study determined for example that small cities and communities with educated, older populations show particularly high levels of satisfaction. The three determining factors for satisfaction, though, were consistent across demographics.
What is community satisfaction?
Community satisfaction is a measure constructed from the answers to five questions about overall satisfaction, pride in place, optimism about the future, whether respondents regard a place as desirable for people like them and whether they would recommend it to others. These questions assess the emotional connection residents’ feel for their community. The Soul of the Community study seeks to understand what things about a community drive this loyalty and passion for place so we can further connect residents to their community.
What are the next steps for this study? What tools is Knight Foundation providing to our communities to increase community attachment?
Survey information, raw data and key findings are available on the study’s website for public review and feedback.
Leaders in three of the 26 cities surveyed – Miami, Charlotte and Detroit – are using the findings to inform their community development plans. For example, The Miami Foundation is using the research to identify needs specific to the South Florida region – and address them through advocating for public policy changes or taking direct action.
What is the difference between a community characteristic that is a strength versus a community characteristic that is a simply a correlate of community satisfaction? What is a critical opportunity?
We identify a range of perceived community characteristics that correlate with reported satisfaction. A strength is any community characteristic that is highly rated by residents and is related to reported satisfaction. Communities should leverage strengths. A critical opportunity is any community characteristic that is low-performing, yet matters for community satisfaction.
What is openness?
Openness is the respondent’s perception of how welcoming a community is to different types of people, including people with young children, senior citizens, college graduates and minorities, among other groups.
Openness appears among the top three correlates of community satisfaction in all of the Knight communities in 2010.
What new information have you received in year three of this study?
Three perceived attributes – social offerings, openness and beauty – have consistently emerged as the leading correlates of self-reported satisfaction over the study’s three years of research. They more strongly correlated with respondent satisfaction than perceptions of local economy, leadership and safety across all of the 26 cities included in the Knight Soul of the Community survey.
Why did the Knight Foundation use Gallup for this project?
Gallup is one of the most trusted names in polling and is on the cutting edge of behavioral economics. Gallup also has developed and measured the idea behind emotional attachment in the workplace and communities – both nationally and internationally. The Soul of the Community project takes advantage of all that previous work to provide the most comprehensive measurement model to date.
What geographical area was included in this survey? Why were these areas chosen?
Gallup used the U.S. Census definitions of the 26 communities where Knight Foundation invests. For the most part, the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) was used. However, in a few cases the µSA (Micropolitan Statistical Area), MD (Metropolitan Division) or ZIP code definition of the community area was used.
Areas were chosen to provide a regional view of Knight communities.
Census definitions align with external performance data such as local GDP, population growth, health, welfare and educational data necessary for analysis. It also allows for merging with other administrative data for additional analyses.
How long will it take to confirm if community attachment drives GDP or the other way around? What will this confirmation provide us? [TBD]
Gallup’s researchers are continuing to look at this issue. However, in other places Gallup has found that in fact it is emotional attachment that drives GDP growth. If indeed community attachment drives local economic growth, then by pinpointing the qualities that drive residents’ loyalty and passion for their community, local leaders know which levers to push to influence both residents’ feelings about their community and potentially its economic well-being.
Don’t these findings just reinforce what we already know about our community? [TBD]
Likely so. However, having empirical evidence that validates these perceptions is important and useful as a first step toward moving the conversation forward. Additionally, the study explicitly identifies the perceived community characteristics that most closely correlate to residents’ emotional connection to their communities, which is critical to finding ways to build resident satisfaction.
Does your new information confirm that community attachment drives local economic growth? [TBD]
While we still can’t confirm that community attachment drives GDP, the correlation between economic growth and residents’ emotional attachment towards where they live has increased using updated GDP figures in the second third year of study.
What additional information do you expect to learn in the third year of your study?
We will continue to confirm current findings on what affects attachment, to see if they continue to hold. We also will continue to monitor communities’ attachment levels and which demographic groups are seeing an increasing or diminishing attachment to place. We will also monitor “brain drain” potential in our communities. Lastly, we hope to be closer in being able to better describe the relationship between community attachment and local GDP growth.