League study yields unexpected findings for city officials
(April 28, 2008—St. Paul, Minn.) A recent survey conducted by Decision Resources, Ltd. for the League of Minnesota Cities shows that an overwhelming majority of city residents in the state—no matter where they live—recognize city government as an important contributor to quality of life. Furthermore, by great margins, residents trust and value the work of their elected and appointed city officials. The survey results were derived from questions asked as part of a broader research study concerning the “Value of Cities,” administered to a random sample of Minnesota city residents in November of 2007.
The survey showed that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents indicated they believe that city government plays a “very important” role in quality of life, with another 35 percent believing the city role to be “somewhat important.” Additionally, 86 percent of survey respondents indicate they trust city government “a lot” or “somewhat”—a rating that is higher than the trust level for state government (75 percent), and much higher than the Federal Government (48 percent).
In other findings, more than two-thirds of respondents said the value of services they receive from cities is “good” or “excellent”, when thinking about the quality of the services given the amount of taxes paid. In terms of how individual services are perceived, city residents identified law enforcement as the city service with the most impact on their quality of life (25 percent). The next most-common responses were street maintenance (16 percent), public works (11 percent), and parks and recreation (8 percent).
“Though we sometimes tend to take city services for granted, we can see from the survey results that a majority of residents are not only are aware of those services, but are pleased with the way they are delivered,” said League Executive Director Jim Miller. “Livability factors like safe streets, clean park and recreation areas, and public libraries all contribute a great deal to the quality of life we enjoy in Minnesota cities.”
The survey also showed that nearly 80 percent of respondents have either a positive or neutral impression of city government as a whole, while only 12 percent have a negative impression. Generally, respondents have positive views not only about their own cities, but of cities throughout Minnesota. Additionally, large majorities of respondents think most city governments are forward-thinking, hard-working, ethical, essential, and smart.
“We, as city officials, know the work of local government is not always portrayed in the most positive light. With that in mind, we’re somewhat surprised by the survey results,” said Todd Prafke, League president and city administrator for the City of St. Peter. “Each of Minnesota’s 854 cities is unique in its own way. It’s great to see that, despite those differences, Minnesota city residents view their cities in remarkably similar and positive ways.”
Over the next several weeks and months, the League hopes to use the survey results to learn more about Minnesotans’ knowledge and perception of city government, with the goal of helping cities continue to provide high-quality constituent service. Additional findings about perceptions of elected officials and city staff, and the city workforce of the future, will be publicly released in May.
The League of Minnesota Cities is a membership organization dedicated to promoting excellence in local government through effective advocacy, expert analysis, and trusted guidance for all Minnesota cities. The League serves its more than 830 members through advocacy, education and training, policy development, risk management and other services.
A sampling of questions and responses: