Stay or go? New Pew study looks at Philly attitudes

Stay or go? New Pew study looks at Philly attitudes
Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc

Do you see the city as underappreciated? Would it be easy for you to leave? Is Philadelphia a place with more than its share of problems? Do you think you may live her for the rest of your life?

How people answer those questions may go a long way to describing your attitudes about the city that policy makers could use to set priorities in Philadelphia in a way that cuts beyond simple demographics.

A new study by the Pew Charitable Trusts used about 26 questions to divide residents into four broad categories that illuminate their feelings on Philly life.

The biggest category, Dissatisfied Citizens, tend to have more trouble making ends meet, are more likely to say they distrust the police and think local government does has paid too much attention to Center City over neighborhoods. About 30 percent of residents fall into this category

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One-in-four people are classified as Die-hard loyalists. They tend to be older and tend to want the city to do more to retain long-time residents. They love their neighbors, support labor unions and tend not to make much money.

Uncommitted Skeptics tend to be young and view the suburbs with longing. This group makes up about one in four Philly residents, and 97 percent of them said it would be easy to leave if the right circumstances came along.

The smallest group is made up of what Pew calls Enthusiastic Urbanists. They tend to feel safe in their neighborhoods, would find it hard to leave and say the city should prioritize attracting new residents to retaining existing ones.

You can see where you stack up by taking the Pew survey here.

Larry Eichel, Director of Pew’s Philadelphia research initiative said the survey was designed to look at city residents not by demographics like age, race and income, but by attitude.

While categorizing people according to demographics might lead to the conclusion that the least well off are the most dissatisfied, Eichel noted that Enthusiastic Urbanists came from households with incomes below $30,000 and above $100,000. And the sceptics tend to be in better shape than the loyalists.

“The most striking thing to me is that a quarter of residents fall into the category of uncommitted skeptics,” Eichel said. “A lot of them are young, well educated, and in decent financial shape that makes it easy for them to leave.”

Despite their differences, the four groups agreed on some things. They tend to believe that public education, jobs and public safety should be the city’s top priorities.

And they generally believe that new immigrants tend to bring vibrancy and vitality to city life.

All groups have negative views of the city’s education system. But Enthusiastic Urbanists, who tend to have the most education, also have the least negative views of city schools.

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The groups tend to be distributed throughout the city, Eichel said, but he noted that about 35 percent of the people categorized as Uncommitted Skeptics hail from the northeast.

Metro asked Eichel if the high proportion of Uncommitted Skeptics means that the city’s relatively recent gains in population are fragile.

“We describe them as not sold,” Eichel said. “It doesn’t mean they’ve turned against the city. It means they aren’t sold.”