"Value of Cities" Survey

Statewide “Value of Cities” survey shows very positive view of city government among Minnesotans

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.

"Value of Cities" survey facts at a glance

Background:

  • The survey was conducted for LMC in November, 2007 by Decision Resources, Ltd.
  • A total of 800 city residents from Minnesota were interviewed via telephone—they were selected using random sampling methods.
  • The survey has a margin of error of +/-3.5 percent in 95 out of 100 cases.
  • 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.

Findings:

  • Cities across Minnesota are viewed very positively by residents.
  • Quality of life ratings are high, and city government and its services are viewed as playing a “very important” role.
  • City government is among the most trusted and highest-rated provider of value in comparison with other levels of government.
  • Job ratings of the mayor and city council are strong, as are those of city staff.
  • Large majorities of respondents think most cities are forward-thinking, hard-working, ethical, essential, and smart.

A sampling of questions and responses:

  • Overall, do you have a positive impression, negative impression, or a neutral impression of your city government as a whole?
    • Positive 51%
    • Negative 12%
    • Neutral 28%
    • Don’t know/refused 9%
  • How important of a role do you think city government and its services play in the overall quality of life in your city?
    • Very important 63%
    • Somewhat important 35%
    • Not too/not at all important 2%
  • Please tell me if you trust (city government) a lot, somewhat, not too much, or not at all.
    • A lot 26%
    • Somewhat 60%
    • Not too much 11%
    • Not at all 3%
  • Please tell me if you think the value of services you receive for the amount of taxes you pay for city government is excellent, good, only fair, or poor?
    • Excellent 9%
    • Good 59%
    • Fair 24%
    • Poor 6%
    • Don’t know 2%
  • Compared to other cities across Minnesota, do you think your city government does a much better job, somewhat better, somewhat worse, or a much worse job or do you think they do about the same job?
    • Much better 1%
    • Somewhat better 29%
    • About the same 56%
    • Somewhat worse 5%
    • Much worse 1%
    • Don’t know/refused 8%
  • For each characteristic, please tell me if you think it accurately applies to only your city, most cities in Minnesota, some cities in Minnesota, or no cities in Minnesota? (% shown indicates those responding “most cities in Minnesota”)
    • Essential 75%
    • Hard working 70%
    • Ethical 65%
    • Bureaucratic 65%
    • Smart 63%
    • Stable 62%
    • Forward thinking 62%
    • Competent 61%
    • Relevant 59%
    • Accessible 57%
    • Accountable 57%
    • Credible 57%
    • Cooperative 55%
    • Responsive 55%
    • Open 54%
    • Wasteful 52%
    • Financially responsible 48%
    • Slow 48%
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