Over the past five years, the Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor polling series has focused on important national issues related to the economy, personal finances, volunteerism, and opportunity. These polls have uncovered significant frustration with national institutions during an uneven economic recovery. But, they have also revealed Americans’ steadfast self-reliance and strong desire to improve their own communities.
Since 2009, the Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll has focused on issues that are most important to Americans, including the national economy, personal finances, volunteerism and civic engagement and innovation at the local level. Polls continue to show significant frustration with national institutions during an uneven economic recovery. However, they also revealed Americans’ steadfast self-reliance and desire to see positive change at a local level that improves quality of life for themselves and their communities.
This twenty-second installment of the Heartland Monitor Poll explores Americans’ experiences in their local area, including views on the local economy and their perceptions of local institutions like government, business, and non-profit organizations. What we find here is a clear preference for institutions to take chances with new ideas and solutions rather than relying on tried and tested, but unremarkable approaches. We also see a strong belief that local businesses are the best vehicle to provide job opportunities.
Americans are proud of their local area and they rate it considerably higher than the country in terms of the overall direction and their approval of political leadership. They also rate their local area highly in terms of overall quality of life, a place to start a business, and a place to raise a family. This positive community spirit extends throughout America’s big cities, suburbs, small cities, and rural areas, and also across demographic and socioeconomic subgroups.
Their local pride is challenged when asked to assess local economic conditions and the quality of local services and infrastructure. Americans see their local area economy as stronger than an improving national economy overall. But, they still give low ratings to local job opportunities, wages, and the cost of living. Significant differences exist between those living in cities versus suburbs and rural areas. And, we see a wide deficit between the experiences of whites living in big cities compared to their non-white neighbors.
At home in their local areas, Americans are optimistic about their communities and their quality of life which provides a positive contrast to the negativity we’ve seen about the country. However, there is room for improvement on several local economic and social factors. And, Americans are asking for local institutions to provide new and innovative solutions and ideas.