SOURCE: Neighborworks America

NeighborWorks America

June 15, 2015 10:58 ET

Ten Years After Hurricanes Ravaged the Gulf Coast, a Stronger Sense of Community Emerges

NEW ORLEANS, LA--(Marketwired - June 15, 2015) - Ten years after the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history devastated homes and displaced tens of thousands of people from New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities, residents in that part of the country have come back to build a community that is even stronger and more connected to each other than elsewhere in the U.S. People living in the Gulf Coast region of the United States are more likely to be completely satisfied with their community, feel a stronger sense of 'neighborly' connection, and more readily recommend where they live to others than the people living in other parts of the country.

Overall, Americans report strong satisfaction with their communities, their relationship with their neighbors, and their willingness to work together to solve problems. Those are just a snapshot of the results of a national and regional telephone survey conducted by Anderson Robbins Research, LLC released today for NeighborWorks America ahead of its national Comeback Communities summit in New Orleans.

"By many measures, the fabric of community across the Gulf Coast has been stitched together again stronger than before by the hard work of people who refused to give up on their homes, friends and businesses," said Paul Weech, CEO of NeighborWorks America. "Our summit here is well timed to highlight the strategies that worked across the Gulf region that can be tailored and refined to work in other communities where comeback and recovery -- both economic and social -- need to take place."

Economic perception influences whether people recommend their community, but not as much as knowing neighbors
NeighborWorks believes that the stronger than average sense of community found in the Gulf region can be directly tied to the rebound there. Specifically, 86 percent of Gulf residents say the sense of community there is strong, compared to 81 percent of all Americans. Further, 86 percent of Gulf residents would recommend where they live to others looking for a strong sense of community, eight percentage points above the 78 percent of Americans nationally who would do so.

The strongest predictor of whether people will recommend where they live to someone looking for a strong sense of community is how well they know their neighbors, followed by perceptions of the local economy. Nationally, those who know their neighbors well are 27 percent more likely to recommend their community than those who don't know their neighbors (84 percent compared to 57 percent). Those who think their local economy is better than the national are 16-points more likely to recommend their community than those who think their local economy is worse (85 percent to 69 percent).

The pattern in the Gulf is the same, with knowing neighbors a stronger predictor of recommending the community than perceptions of the economy. But the difference in the Gulf is that people report knowing their neighbors better than elsewhere -- 86 percent of Gulf residents know their neighbors, compared to 79 percent nationally. Exactly half of Gulf Coast residents and Americans nationally think their local economy is better than the country overall.

Good neighbors are everywhere -- but are more frequently found in the Gulf
Ninety-four percent of Gulf Coast residents described their neighbors as 'good', slightly more than the 91 percent rate nationally. Moreover, when asked how important it is to know your neighbors well, residents of the Gulf were more likely to rate this as important. Nationally, 35 percent of adults said that it was very important to know their neighbors well, while 42 percent of adults in the Gulf said knowing their neighbors well was very important. Interestingly, six percent of adults nationwide, or about five percent of the adult population, said that it was not important at all to know your neighbors well. Only three percent of Gulf Coast residents said that it was not important at all to know their neighbors well.

"A few weeks ago, NeighborWorks organizations all across America participated in NeighborWorks Week, a celebration of community that has among its principal objectives to bring all residents, businesses and stakeholders together to move their community forward," said Weech. "This year nearly 200 events engaged thousands of volunteers."

Participation at NeighborWorks week events was strong, and volunteer activity in the U.S. is strong overall. NeighborWorks works to help its affiliate organizations increase volunteer activity because it believes volunteering enhances community.

According to its national survey, 62 percent of adults say that they have seen people in their communities come together to solve problems or make community improvements. However, just 36 percent of adults said that they have regularly participated in community improvement projects, signifying a huge gap in overall participation.

In the Gulf region, 69 percent of people said that they have seen their neighbors come together to solve problems or make community improvements, and 42 percent said that they have participated very often or sometimes in a community improvement project. Better results than the nation has a whole, but there is still room for improvement. NeighborWorks and its network of organizations are actively working to enhance engagement because they believe, and research on social capital shows, that communities are better because of it.

About NeighborWorks America
For more than 35 years, NeighborWorks America has created opportunities for people to improve their lives and strengthen their communities by providing access to homeownership and safe, affordable rental housing. In 2014, NeighborWorks America and its network created or sustained 35,000 jobs, and in the last five years, member organizations generated more than $22.5 billion of reinvestment in these communities. NeighborWorks America is the nation's leading trainer of community development, financial capability and affordable housing professionals.

Methodology

Anderson Robbins Research interviewed total of 1,308 adults living in the United States for this poll. This includes a national sample of 1,005 adults and 303 interviews with Gulf Coast residents in Mississippi and Louisiana. Interviews were conducted by trained professionals working from a central, monitored location between the dates of April 30 - May 11, 2015. Telephone numbers were selected using an RDD (Random Digit Dial) methodology, which ensures the inclusion of both listed and unlisted numbers. Respondents were contacted on both landline and cell phones. The margin of error associated with the overall national results is ± 3.1% and ± 6% for the Gulf Coast results.

About Anderson Robbins Research
Anderson Robbins Research is a Boston-based firm specializing in providing highly accurate research to political and corporate clients. ARR president Chris Anderson has provided polling to a presidential campaign, numerous ballot initiative campaigns, local and state political candidates, and is currently the Democratic pollster on a bipartisan team that conducts a regular national telephone poll of 1,000 voters on behalf of the FOX News Channel.

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