What makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? Are communities with more attached residents better off? Gallup Organization and the Knight Foundation launched the Soul of the Community Study in 2008 with these questions in mind.
After interviewing close to 28,000 people in 26 communities over two years, the study has found that three main qualities bind people to place:
- social offerings such as entertainment venues and places to meet ‘“ the top factor in 21 of 26 communities,
- openness (how welcoming a place is) and
- the area’ s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces).
Access to quality education ‘“ whether at the elementary, secondary or college level ‘“ was also an important factor.
According to the study the top three qualities remained strong over two years of polling, unaffected by the national economic crisis. The levels of residents’ emotional attachment to their towns also remained steady.
The economy was a top concern for residents polled this year ‘“ eclipsing crime, the top concern in 2008. But those issues weren’ t a primary factor in determining their emotional attachment to their towns and cities.
The study also looked at the relationship between how passionate and loyal people are to their communities and local economic growth. Researchers did find a significant relationship between the two. For example, from 2002-06, the most attached communities had the highest local GDP growth.
Researchers, with the benefit of a final survey in 2010, will analyze the trends to determine whether emotional connection drives economic growth, or the other way around. Within a smaller microcosm, such as a company, Gallup has been able to show that increasing employee emotional connection will indeed lead to improved financial performance of the company.