Survey Ranks Where Residents Are Most Satisfied with Their Communities

A new Gallup survey finds 85 percent of Americans are satisfied with the city or area where they live. Compare ratings for each metro area.
by | April 11, 2014 AT 6:00 PM
Bikers on the Blue Sky trail in Fort Collins, Colo.
Bikers on the Blue Sky trail in Fort Collins, Colo. FlickrCC/Yann Ropars

In a handful of communities throughout the country, it seems as if nearly everyone is happy with where they live.

A Gallup-Healthways survey published this morning examines attitudes of Americans over a two-year period, finding 85 percent were satisfied with the city or area where they lived.

In 30 metro areas surveyed, at least nine out of every 10 residents reported being satisfied. The Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo., area ranked first nationally, with a satisfaction ranking of nearly 95 percent. Other localities high on the list tended to be out West or in parts of the Midwest. Residents also gave high marks to San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif. (94.1 percent), Holland-Grand Haven, Mich. (93.4 percent) and Billings, Mont. (See complete list below)

It’s reasonable to assume that, to a degree, the strength of local economies influenced perceptions of survey respondents. Of areas earning top ratings, only the Barnstable, Mass., area is saddled with high unemployment (its jobless rate was 9.1 percent in February).

The Rockford, Ill., area received the lowest satisfaction rating from its residents – 72.8 percent. The area’s unemployment rate is 12.1 percent, one of the highest rates nationally. Just behind Rockford was Stockton, Calif., which faces numerous hurdles after filing for bankruptcy in 2012. Its unemployment rate stands at a similarly bleak 13.1 percent.

Gallup notes that ratings for the survey, conducted from January 2012 through last December, may vary based on overall quality of life factors and job opportunities.

If the satisfaction ratings seem a little high, it could be because of the wording on the survey question. Telephone interviewees weren’t surveyed specifically about government services, but were asked, “Are you satisfied with the city or area where you live?" Many jurisdictions conduct their own citizen satisfaction surveys, which ask different questions to assess the quality of public services.

Gallup reports that the national satisfaction rating of 85 percent has remained consistent since it began tracking the measure in 2008. Some of the lower-rated communities fared better in recent years, though.

Gallup also published data gauging residents’ optimism, asking whether the area they lived was “getting better.” By this measure, the top metro area was Sioux Falls, S.D., at 77.7 percent.

For the most part, residents in areas with higher satisfaction ratings also tended to be more optimistic.

Satisfaction Ratings Data

The following table lists satisfaction ratings for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, conducted in 2012 and 2013. At least 300 adults age 18 and over in each metro area were asked, "Are you satisfied with the city or area where you live?"

Source: Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
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