The Gallup survey is done, the Knight Foundation Soul of the Community report is written, and the verdict is that we St. Paul-ites love our city. And that’s important, according to the researchers, because of a strong correlation between good feelings and growing economies.
Why do people like the cities they live in, and why do we like St. Paul? Some of the more obvious reasons—strong economy, good jobs, public safety—turn out not to be anywhere near the top of the list. The survey, which covered 26 communities where the Knight Foundation works, found that the strongest factors are
Social offerings — Places for people to meet each other and the feeling that people in the community care about each other
- Vibrant nightlife
- Good place to meet people
- Other people care about each other
- Availability of arts and cultural opportunities
- Availability of social community events
Aesthetics — The physical beauty of the community including the availability of parks and green spaces
- Availability of parks, playgrounds, and trails
- Beauty or physical setting
Openness — How welcoming the community is to different types of people, including families with young children, minorities, and talented college graduates
- Good place for older people
- Good place for racial and ethnic minorities
- Good place for families with young children
- Good place for gays and lesbians
- Good place for young, talented college graduates looking for work
- Good place for immigrants
- Good place for young adults without children
And how do we do? Again, the report has a few surprises. You might think that St. Paul ranks high on openness and being a welcoming community, but we don’t get really high rankings. Maybe St. Paul-ites have higher expectations, and so rank our city lower in comparison to those expectations?
According to the report:
In the St. Paul area, social offerings (entertainment infrastructure, places to meet people, community events), aesthetics (an area’s physical beauty and green spaces) and openness (how welcoming the place is) are the most important factors emotionally connecting residents to where they live.
Aesthetics was perceived as a community strength, particularly the area’s parks, playgrounds and trails. All aspects of aesthetics were rated significantly higher in 2010.
Social offering and openness need improvement to further attach residents to the area, however both were rated significantly higher in 2010. Nightlife was rated significantly higher. Gays and lesbians are seen as significantly more welcome in 2010 – all positive momentum that helped to improve these challenge areas for the community.
People in St. Paul were less enthralled by our economy and by community leadership—but neither of those factors ranks high in determining how attached people are to their communities. Is that a slam at St. Paul pols? Probably not, Knight Foundation’s Polly Talen told MinnPost: leadership was ranked low in every community.
Want to read the full report? You can download the PDF here.