Survey: Community gives GR improved ratings, identifies focus areas

Published on June 04, 2024

National Community Survey - the results are in! graphic

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Results of Grand Rapids’ 2024 National Community Survey™ (The NCS™) show that the local economy remains strong with Grand Rapids’ affordability ratings holding steady. The City’s cultural opportunities received overwhelmingly positive reviews and many aspects of community inclusivity increased over the 2022 survey results. These are among 36 ratings that were statistically significantly higher than 2022 findings. Overall, 85 areas received similar ratings and six received lower ratings.

Polco’s National Research Center (NRC) – a nationally recognized civic engagement firm – conducted the statistically-valid survey from January 31 to March 21. The final survey report provides the opinions of a representative sample of 4,500 residents of the City of Grand Rapids. Weighted survey results reflect an overall 95% confidence interval with a +/- 4% margin of error around any reported percentage based on a 16% response rate (600 completed surveys). Weighted results ensure that the demographic profile of respondents is representative of the demographic profile of adults in Grand Rapids.

“These results show that our efforts and investments in many areas are improving resident satisfaction, but there are still opportunities for improvement,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “I want to thank the public for taking part in the survey in even greater numbers this year to rate our performance. This feedback will help us identify areas where they feel work still needs to get done. We will continue to do a deep dive and examine the results with the City Commission and community in the coming months to prioritize and focus our energy and resources appropriately.”

NCS representative Joe Dell’Olio presented the findings at this morning’s Committee of the Whole. He explained that the NCS allows municipalities across America to assess resident opinions about their communities and local governments. It focuses on the “livability” of Grand Rapids by categorizing survey questions into 10 main “facets” that are most impactful to residents’ quality of life. The NCS includes items within each of these ten facets to provide a full picture of how residents feel about their community.

“Survey data can monitor trends in resident opinion over time, measure government performance and ratings of public trust, and inform budgeting processes and strategic plans,” he said. “Results also allow Grand Rapids to benchmark its community’s specific characteristics and services against those same characteristics within other communities in our benchmark database.”

Results of Grand Rapids’ 2024 NCS survey include:

Highest-performing areas:

  • The local economy is still strong, with several related items exceeding national averages.
  • In contrast to nationwide downward trends in affordability markers, Grand Rapids’ ratings held steady for affordable housing, affordable quality food, and residents’ personal economic outlook.
  • Grand Rapids’ cultural opportunities received overwhelmingly positive reviews that surpassed both national benchmarks and those from comparably sized cities.
  • Most aspects of community inclusivity increased over previous survey results.

Lowest-performing areas:

  • Despite some small gains in Grand Rapids’ mobility services, survey results indicate room for improvement in street repair, public parking, and alternative transportation.
  • While most residents continue to feel safe in the community, crime prevention and law enforcement services remain an opportunity for additional focus.
  • Evaluations of K-12 education scored below national averages but remained in line with both prior results and custom benchmarks.
  • The availability of affordable quality childcare/preschool received slightly more favorable reviews this year but was still lower than in 2019.

Areas of greatest change since 2022:

Increases

  • Attracting people from diverse backgrounds (+16%)
  • Affordable high-speed internet access (+15%)
  • Openness and acceptance of the community toward people of diverse backgrounds (+13%)
  • Street repair (+11%)
  • Valuing/respecting residents from diverse backgrounds (+10%)

Decreases

  • Ease of travel by public transportation (-10%)
  • Bus or transit services (-10%)
  • Cost of living (-9%)
  • Air quality (-7%)
  • Ease of travel by bicycle (-7%)

City officials plan to provide the City Commission and the public a more detailed presentation and analysis of overall NCS results, as well as disaggregated totals and trends across key themes, at the July 16 Committee of the Whole meeting. They also plan an abbreviated presentation of NCS results with a workshop/engagement session with the community at the July 30 Commission Night Out event at Gerald R. Ford Academic Center.

Complete results of Grand Rapids’ 2024 National Community Survey are available on the City’s website: grandrapidsmi.gov. The presentation (PDF) made at COW Tuesday is available for download HERE.

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