11 Drivers of Community Attachment – Ranked. Findings from “Soul of the Community”, a Gallup/Knight study

The goal of the Knight Foundation-Gallup Soul of the Community project is to explore how community qualities influence residents’ feelings about where they live, and how those perceptions relate to local economic growth and vitality.

Gallup interviewed a group of randomly selected adults age 18 or older, currently residing in each of the 26 Knight Foundation Communities. Interviews took place from February 17th through April 26, 2009. The interview was approximately 18 minutes long and covered 86 questions. The sample for each community was a representative selection of residential household telephone numbers in the defined area. Once a household within the identified area was reached, Gallup randomly selected one adult within the sampled household. Each county within a community was sampled proportionally to the adult population in each area. About 400 citizen interviews were completed in most of the Knight communities – 28,000 nationwide, over the past two years.

CA Map

Main findings

Overall, 24% of citizens are attached to the community in which they live; 40% are not attached.

Gallup identified two key components of Community Attachment (CA):

  1. Attitudinal Loyalty, describes citizens’ general satisfaction with place, their likelihood to recommend it to others, and their outlook for their community’s future.
    1. 60% of respondents were satisfied with their community (25% highly satisfied)
    2. 57% were like to recommend it to others (30% very likely)
    3. 44% had a positive outlook for their community (17% very positive)
  2. Passion, captures the connection to place and the pride taken in living there.
    1. 66% of respondents are proud to live in their community (38% very proud)
    2. 57% believe their community is perfect for them (29% feel this strongly)

Gallup also identified five key dimensions (domains) of community, and a citizen’s connection to it, which drive overall CA. These five domains describe perceptions of:

  1. the basic structural, economic, and leadership offerings of the community (what the community gives or offers its residents),
  2. perceptions of the community’s openness to different groups (what the community stands for in diversity),
  3. citizen involvement in the community (what citizens give back to the community),
  4. the people connections they have to that community (how citizens belong to the community), and
  5. citizen’s personal state of well being (how the person feels and copes in the environment).

CA ModelCommunities which are strong on all five domains (and thus have high overall attachment) have the greatest opportunity to attract and retain the most desirable citizens for driving economic and social success. Each Domain has a different level of impact on CA. These domains were further broken out into eleven aspects, which affected a resident’s attachment to the community. Together, these domains explain about 40% of the overall variance in CA (based on logistic regression). So if we can move (i.e. improve) these 11 aspects (and more specifically the ones with the highest influence) we should be able to move CA.

In descending order:

  1. Openness – Perceptions of openness of the community to different groups (older people, racial and ethnic minorities, families with kids, gays and lesbians, talented college graduates, immigrants)
  2. Social Offerings – Vibrant night life; good place to meet people; other people care about each other
  3. Aesthetics – Parks, playgrounds, and trails; beauty or physical setting
  4. Education – Quality of public schools (K-12), colleges, and universities
  5. Basic Services – Highways and freeway system, availability of quality healthcare, availability of affordable housing
  6. Leadership – Community leaders represent residents’ interests; leadership of elected city officials
  7. Economy – Economic conditions & prospects, job opportunities, income
  8. Emotional Wellness – The personal well being of citizens (respect, rest, stress, learning)
  9. Safety – Level of community crime; safe to walk within 1 mile of home
  10. Social Capital – The people-connections citizens have to the community and how they share time with others (belong to formal/informal groups/clubs; spend time with neighbors; close friends in community; family in community)
  11. Civic Involvement – What residents give to the community in terms of civic involvement (volunteer; voted in local election; attend local community meetings; work with residents to make change)

Key Attachment Drivers

Learn more: 2009 – Full Report(PDF), 2009 – Presentation(PPT), 2009 – Data (ZIP, DOC, POR – asks for email)


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