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Knight Soul of the Community 2010

Key Message

This study provides empirical evidence that the drivers that create emotional bonds between people and their community are consistent in virtually every city and can be reduced to just a few categories. Interestingly, the usual suspects — jobs, the economy, and safety — are not among the top drivers. Rather, people consistently give higher ratings for elements that relate directly to their daily quality of life: an area’s physical beauty, opportunities for socializing, and a community’s openness to all people.

The study also showed that the communities with the highest levels of attachment had the highest rates of gross domestic product growth.


Knight Foundation. (2010). Knight Soul of the Community 2010. Miami, Florida: Author


This study was conducted over three years in 26 cities across the United States where Knight Foundation is active. It was designed to find out what emotionally attaches people to a community — what makes them want to put down roots and build a life there.

The gallup study is a 15-minute phone survey conducted in the 26 communities the John S. and James l. Knight foundation serves. the survey is available in english and Spanish, and both landlines and cell phones are called.
each year, a random sample of at least 400 residents, aged 18 and older, is interviewed in each community, with additional interviews conducted in selected resident communities. in 2010, 15,200 interviews were conducted, with 1,000 conducted in eight resident communities. the 2010 study also included 200 interviews among residents aged 18 to 34 in the resident communities to give gallup more information about that age group. overall data were adjusted to ensure an accurate representation of the real demographic makeup of each community based on u.S. Census bureau data.

Gallup also used U.S. Census classifications to choose the geographical area included in each community. for the most part, gallup used the Metropolitan Statistical area. however, in a few cases, gallup used other accepted definitions of the community area. these census definitions allow gallup to compare other information such as local gdP and population growth so that gallup can more closely examine community attachment and key community outcomes.



The main drivers of attachment differ little across communities. When examining each factor in the study and its relationship to attachment, the same items rise to the top, year after year:
• Social offerings — Places for people to meet each other and the feeling that people in the community care about each other
• openness — How welcoming the community is to different types of people, including families with young children, minorities, and talented college graduates
• aesthetics — The physical beauty of the community including the availability of parks and green spaces

The data make clear that highly attached residents are more likely to want to stay in their current communities. When this is true for college graduates and other productive residents, it increases the number of talented, highly educated workers striving to positively affect economic growth.The Soul of the Community study has found a positive correlation between community attachment and local GDP growth. Across the 26 Knight communities, those whose residents were more attached saw more local GDP growth. This is a key metric in assessing community success because local GDP growth not only measures a community’s economic success, but also its ability to grow and meet residents’ needs. Just as actively engaged employees are more productive and committed to the success of their organizations, highly attached residents are more likely to actively contribute to a community’s growth.

Highly attached residents are also more likely to see their communities as being open to many kinds of people, including talented, young college graduates and families with young children. Communities that are more open to diversity are better able to compete for talent.

Attachment is also higher when residents agree that their communities provide the social offerings and aesthetics they enjoy. When residents enjoy their community’s offerings, they are more likely to spend their money on local activities and businesses, directly benefiting the local economy.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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