A new public opinion poll commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative finds that Mayor Michael Nutter's job approval ratings have improved over the past year, even as Philadelphians voice concerns about violent crime and the overall direction of the city.
Sixty percent of city residents approve of the job Mayor Nutter is doing, and 30 percent disapprove. These numbers have improved from a year ago when 52 percent approved and 37 percent disapproved. However, Philadelphians are unhappy with much that is going on in the city.
Crime is a “serious” or “very serious” problem in the city's neighborhoods, according to 74 percent of residents, up from 64 percent a year ago. By an 11-to-1 margin, Philadelphians support the teen curfew, enacted by City Council last fall in an attempt to reduce youth violence.
Broader worries about the direction of the city surface in attitudes toward how the city has changed over the past five years. Thirty-five percent of respondents say the city has gotten worse and 23 percent say it is better. A year ago, Philadelphians were evenly divided on the subject, and “better” outpolled “worse” 33 percent to 27 percent in 2009.
In addition, 53 percent say someone in their household was unemployed and looking for work at some point in the last 12 months. Only one in three describes his or her finances as good or excellent. These answers show no improvement from last year's results.
Residents remain upbeat about the city's future though. By 59 percent to 21 percent, they expect Philadelphia to be a better place to live five years from now. Results on this score have changed little in the last few years. In addition, 60 percent describe Philadelphia as a good or excellent place to live, essentially unchanged from last year.
The wide-ranging survey of 1,600 Philadelphians was conducted by Abt SRBI Public Affairs, working with Rutgers University Professor Cliff Zukin, between January 4 and January 19.
The poll found a generally positive reaction toward the racial and ethnic changes that Philadelphia has undergone in recent years, as well as the influx of immigrants. A majority of residents, 51 percent, agree with the statement that immigrants “strengthen Philadelphia because of their talents, hard work and the taxes they pay,” while 34 percent agree that immigrants “are a burden on the city because of the strain they put on schools, housing and health services.” When the same question was asked nationally by the Pew Hispanic Center in September 2010, 44 percent of Americans said that immigrants strengthen the country, and 42 percent said they are a burden.
Mayor Nutter's job-approval marks are the best he has received since the Philadelphia Research Initiative began asking the job-approval question in 2009, his second year in office. African Americans, whose approval ratings of Mayor Nutter were not high in recent years, were more positive in this survey. This year, 52 percent of blacks approve of the job Nutter is doing—an increase of 10 percentage points from 2011—and 38 percent disapprove, a decrease from 47 percent a year ago. Among whites, the job-approval margin is 69 percent to 24 percent, and among Hispanics, 55 percent to 29 percent.
When asked to rate how the Nutter administration has done in five specific policy areas, the public's lowest grade was for “reducing violent crime,” with only 14 percent seeing “major improvement” and another 35 percent “some improvement.” And 85 percent of Philadelphians say reducing violent crime should be a high priority for the next four years, followed closely by “improving education levels” (79 percent), and “attracting new investment and creating jobs” (78 percent).
The Nutter administration receives its highest first-term ratings for “making a greener city that is more environmentally friendly and energy efficient,” with more than seven in ten (74 percent) seeing at least some improvement. Nearly six in ten (57 percent) say the administration is “making government less corrupt and more open.”
Additional results of the Philadelphia Research Initiative's fourth benchmark survey, including residents' views on taxes and other ideas for enhancing city revenue, will be released later this month.
How the study was conducted
The Philadelphia Research Initiative telephone survey was conducted between January 4 and January 19 among a citywide random sample of 1,600 Philadelphia residents, ages 18 and older. Interviews were conducted with 1,200 landline users and 400 cell phone users to reach a broad representative sample of Philadelphians.
The final sample was weighted to reflect the demographic breakdown of the city. The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 2.5 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error and respondent error.
About The Philadelphia Research Initiative
The Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis on key issues facing Philadelphia for the benefit of the city's citizens and leaders. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. www.pewtrusts.org/philaresearch.