Survey Finds Community Satisfaction Relatively High Among Waco-Area Residents

Oct. 19, 2012

Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMediaCom

Contact: Lori Fogleman, Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-6275

Baylor's Center for Community Research and Development compares local results with those in 26 U.S. cities

WACO, Texas (Oct. 19, 2012) - Waco-area residents are reporting relatively high levels of satisfaction with their community as a great place to live, according to a survey conducted and analyzed by Baylor University's Center for Community Research and Development (CCRD).

From March 19 to April 28, 2012, CCRD researchers interviewed 701 adult residents of McLennan County (512 by traditional landline telephone and 189 by cell phone) using identical questions asked in 26 other communities across the United States for the Knight Foundation's Soul of the Community study. That study - conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2010 - explored the community qualities that influence residents' loyalty and passion for where they live and how those feelings relate to indicators of community well-being such as local economic growth.

In the McLennan County survey, CCRD researchers asked: "Taking everything into account, how satisfied are you with this community as a place to live?"

The survey found that nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of the McLennan County respondents reported they were satisfied, compared with about two-thirds (66 percent) from the other 26 communities. More specifically, Waco tied for eighth place on the most satisfied list of communities.

Table 1: Community Satisfaction Rankings

1 State College, PA 85%
2 Boulder, CO 82%
3 Grand Forks, ND 81%
4 Bradenton, FL 80%
5 St. Paul, MN 79%
6 San Jose, CA 77%
7 Lexington, KY 76%
8 Waco, TX 74%

8 Aberdeen, SD 74%
8 Fort Wayne, IN 74%
8 Myrtle Beach, SC 74%
12 Duluth, MN 73%
12 Tallahassee, FL 73%
12 Wichita, KS 73%
15 Long Beach, CA 72%
16 Palm Beach, FL 71%
17 Charlotte, NC 69%
17 Columbus, GA 69%
19 Biloxi, MS 68%
20 Columbia, SC 67%
21 Philadelphia, PA 63%
22 Akron, OH 62%
23 Milledgeville, GA 54%
24 Miami, FL 53%
25 Macon, GA 48%
26 Detroit, MI 44%
27 Gary, IN 40%

Local African-American residents reported being the most satisfied, followed closely by white residents and then Hispanic residents, the survey showed. Income had a smaller effect than might be anticipated, with 72 percent of those earning less than $25,000 per year and 78 percent of those earning more than $75,000 reporting satisfaction with the community.

One possible explanation for Waco's relatively high rating is the presence of its three higher education institutions - Baylor, McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College.

"The top three communities on the list - State College, Pa., Boulder, Colo., and Grand Forks, N.D. - are college towns, and six of the seven communities rated above Waco are college towns," said Larry Lyon, Ph.D., CCRD director and dean of the Graduate School at Baylor. "Beyond the educational opportunities, colleges bring communities cultural and entertainment events and amenities that would otherwise only be found in communities that are much larger."

When asked- "How likely are you to recommend this community to a friend or associate as a place to live?" - 70 percent of McLennan County residents reported they would recommend their community to others. Using this measure, Waco tied for 12th among the surveyed communities.

Table 2: Community Recommendation Rankings

1 State College, PA 82%
2 Boulder, CO 78%
2 Grand Forks, ND 78%
4 St. Paul, MN 77%
5 Bradenton, FL 76%
6 Fort Wayne, IN 75%
6 Lexington, KY 75%
6 Long Beach, CA 75%
9 Aberdeen, SD 73%
10 Myrtle Beach, SC 72%
10 Tallahassee, FL 72%
12 Waco, TX 70%
12 Charlotte, NC 70%
12 Palm Beach, FL 70%
15 Columbus, GA 69%
16 Wichita, KS 68%
17 Duluth, MN 67%
18 Biloxi, MS 66%
18 San Jose, CA 66%
20 Columbia, SC 63%
21 Philadelphia, PA 58%
22 Akron, OH 53%
23 Milledgeville, GA 49%
24 Miami, FL 45%
25 Macon, GA 41%
26 Detroit, MI 35%
27 Gary, IN 33%

Table 3: Community Recommendation by Age Group

Age Variable "Would Not Recommend" "Would Recommend"

under 25 67.7% 32.3%
25-34 33.6% 66.4%
35-44 30.3% 69.7%
45-54 19.0% 81.0%
55-64 35.9% 64.1%
65+ 22.6% 77.4%

However, despite the fact that more than two-thirds of those aged 18-24 (67.1 percent) reported being satisfied with Waco as a place to live, the survey found that less than one-third (32.3 percent) said they would recommend their community to a friend or co-worker.

The reason for Waco's drop in that measure appeared to rest solely among young adults. No other demographic group demonstrated a marked difference between the "satisfaction" and the "recommendation" question, the survey found.

"These young adults appear to be satisfied with their current community but not willing to recommend Waco to friends, perhaps out of uncertainty about local job opportunities that will soon face this group upon college graduation," Lyon said. "The response of Waco young adults is similar to the residents of Detroit and Gary, Ind., two communities battling a severe economic downturn."

While relatively small college towns can offer many of the same community advantages as large cities, they also provide a lower fear of crime, which is typically associated with small towns. When compared to the other 26 communities on the perception of crime, Waco ranked high on the list at No. 5.

Table 4: Community Safety Rankings

1 Aberdeen, SD 80%
2 Grand Forks, ND 79%
2 State College, PA 79%
4 Boulder, CO 78%
5 Waco, TX 73%
6 San Jose, CA 69%
7 St. Paul, MN 65%
8 Duluth, MN 64%
8 Wichita, KS 64%
10 Biloxi, MS 63%
10 Fort Wayne, IN 63%
12 Lexington, KY 62%
12 Philadelphia, PA 62%
14 Akron, OH 61%
14 Detroit, MI 61%
16 Bradenton, FL 58%
16 Tallahassee, FL 58%
18 Charlotte, NC 57%
18 Columbia, SC 57%
20 Gary, IN 56%
21 Long Beach, CA 54%
22 Myrtle Beach, SC 51%
22 Palm Beach, FL 51%
24 Columbus, GA 47%
25 Milledgeville, GA 46%
26 Miami, FL 44%
27 Macon, GA 39%

When asked - "How safe do you feel walking alone around your block at night?" - nearly three-quarters of the McLennan County respondents (73 percent) reported they felt safe, compared to 59 percent from the other 26 communities. Of those individuals who said they were satisfied with their community, 74 percent also said that they feel safe, indicating the strong relationship between satisfaction and the perception of crime, according to researchers.

"Previous research on crime has shown a high correlation between the fear of crime and neighborhood satisfaction," said Anna Garland, a senior research analyst at CCRD. "Individuals who feel safe in their neighborhoods are more likely to be satisfied. That relationship is reflected here in our survey of McLennan County residents."

Opposite to the findings on community satisfaction, white residents in McLennan County reported feeling the safest, followed by Hispanic residents and then African-Americans residents. Sixty-five percent of those individuals making less than $25,000 a year feel safe, while 82 percent of those individuals making over $75,000 a year feel safe, the survey found.

"This discrepancy is probably the result of an individual's ability, or lack thereof, to buy their safety or at least the perception of safety," Garland said.

In the Soul of the Community survey, Gallup interviewed a random, representative sample of 400 adults (age 18+) in each of the 26 Knight communities. Researchers then studied 10 domains that were found to drive community attachment at varying levels:

• Basic services - community infrastructure

• Local Economy

• Safety

• Leadership and elected officials

• Aesthetics - physical beauty and green spaces

• Education systems

• Social offerings - opportunities for social interaction and citizen caring

• Openness/welcomeness - how welcoming the community is to different people

• Civic involvement - residents' commitment to their community through voting or volunteerism

• Social capital - social networks between residents

Social offerings, openness and aesthetics are most related to community attachment in all the 26 communities studied by the Knight Foundation.

ABOUT THE BAYLOR CENTER FOR COMMUNITY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

The Center for Community Research and Development (CCRD) at Baylor University was established in 1979 as a multidisciplinary entity with a mission of engaging Baylor faculty and students in applied social research aimed at improving the local quality of life. Over time, the CCRD has broadened its focus, sometimes engaging in statewide or national research, and the CCRD has become closely linked with Baylor's graduate program, specifically the Ph.D. in Applied Sociology. Still, CCRD's research remains multidisciplinary and many of the CCRD's projects retain a local quality of life focus. For more information, call (254) 710-3811 or visit www.baylor.edu/CCRD.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

Looking for more news from Baylor University?