National Community Survey

The National Community Survey (NCS) is a questionnaire that measures a community's livability.

Livability is defined as: The sum of the factors that add up to a community's quality of life.

NCS has identified eight livability factors:

  1. Safety
  2. Mobility
  3. Natural environment
  4. Built environment
  5. Economy
  6. Recreation and wellness
  7. Education and enrichment
  8. Community engagement

The NCS questionnaire asked Grand Rapidians about their experience of the above factors. The results of this survey are benchmarked against:

  • More than 600 communities nationally
  • 38 communities of similar size to Grand Rapids

Review the results below. Make sure to check out the User Guide panel for instructions on reading the results.

The NCS is part of our:

  • Strategic Plan
  • Performance Management initiative
  • Commitment to accountability, identified in our Strategic Plan

Check out our Strategic Plan page below. Make sure to also take a look at the NCS results presentation to City Commission (2/25/20).

Strategic Plan

The below User Guide gives guidance on how to read the survey results in each of the reports (in the below panels).

Guide to Understanding and Using Your Reports(PDF, 643KB)

The Livability Report provides the opinions of a representative sample of 399 Grand Rapids residents. This summarizes all the results and key findings.

NCS Livability Report(PDF, 202KB)

Below are the report's conclusions:

Safety is a priority

Residents identified Safety as an important area for the City to focus on in the next two years. Evaluations for the overall feeling of safety in the city, police and crime prevention were below-average. 

Nearly all respondents indicated that the goal of safety is essential or very important.

Economy is a strength

Survey respondents also identified the Economy as a top area of focus in the future. About two-thirds of residents gave positive review of the community's overall economic health. 

Respondents identified the following measures as strengths to our economy:

  • Employment
  • Shopping opportunities
  • Downtown vibrancy
  • New development in the community
  • The city as a place to visit
  • The city as a place to work

K-12 Education is an opportunity area

About eight in 10 respondents identified community education and enrichment as a top priority. 

Reviews for K-12 education in Grand Rapids lagged behind nationwide levels.

85% of participants indicated that creating opportunities for education and enrichment for all ages is an essential or very important focus.

Mobility alternatives are appreciated

Respondents generally evaluated Mobility-related aspects positively. The following aspects of car travel were identified as challenges:

  • Public parking
  • Street repair
  • Street cleaning
  • Snow removal

Four in 10 respondents indicated they had used public transportation. Seven in 10 had walked or biked instead of driving. About two-thirds of respondents reported that they were familiar with public parking and alternative transportation locations. 

Below is a link to the dashboard summary of findings from the NCS. 

This shows how the survey respondents rated community characteristics within each of the eight factors of a livable community.

This report offers a simplified (“rolled up”) quantitative view of the data, as well as comparison details for each question.

NCS Dashboard(PDF, 120KB)

To tell the story of who responded to this survey, NCS provided a breakdown of responses by demographic subgroups. The report below identifies differences in opinion of respondents, based on:

  • Housing type (rent or own)
  • Age
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Length of residency
  • Presence of children in the household

Comparisons by Demographic Subgroups(PDF, 360KB)

To tell the story of who responded to this survey, NCS provided a breakdown of responses by geographic subgroups. Grand Rapids is divided into three Wards.

Check out the City's Ward Map here.(PDF, 5MB)

The report below identifies differences in opinion of respondents, based on the Ward they live in. 


Comparisons by Geographic Subgroups(PDF, 172KB)

The appendices include the details about:

  • Survey methods
  • Individual response options selected for each question – with and without the “don’t know” option
  • Detailed benchmark results

This document speaks to the credibility of data and the most granular detail of results.

Technical Appendices(PDF, 2MB)

Those who were not chosen randomly could participate in an online open participation survey.

NSC received 352 responses from the open survey. These results are listed in a separate document (below) to avoid altering the validity of the statistically valid survey.

Supplemental Online Results(PDF, 390KB)