Press Release

Pew Poll Finds Philadelphians Concerned About City's Prospects; Residents Also Take Dim View of Political Leadership


A new poll from The Pew Charitable Trusts finds that Philadelphians are concerned about the city's prospects and give the city its lowest ratings in the five years that Pew has been polling locally.

Among the indicators:

  • Forty-five percent of respondents said the city was “off on the wrong track,” compared with 37 percent who said it was “headed in the right direction.” In 2009, the responses were reversed, with 37 percent choosing the wrong track and 46 percent the right direction.
  • Thirty-seven percent of residents said the city had become a worse place to live during the past five years, while 25 percent said it was better. In 2009, only 27 percent said worse, and 33 percent indicated better.
  • Fewer Philadelphians said they expected the city to improve in the next five years. In the current survey, optimists outnumbered pessimists 52 percent to 27 percent.  In 2009, it was 68 percent to 14 percent.

These downward trends were also reflected in residents' attitudes toward the city's elected officials, including Mayor Michael Nutter. His approval rating was the lowest in the five years that Pew has been polling in Philadelphia.

Thirty-nine percent of residents said they approved of the mayor's job performance, while 52 percent disapproved. This is a dramatic change from January 2012, when 60 percent approved of his work—his highest rating since 2009—and 30 percent disapproved. The decline in Mayor Nutter's job-approval numbers was largely consistent across economic, demographic, and geographic lines.

The City Council's job approval rating also was lower, though it did not fall as much. Thirty percent of respondents approved of the job the council is doing, a decrease of 5 percentage points from 2012.

Despite these negative perceptions, three-fifths of Philadelphians said they considered the city a good or excellent place to live, roughly the same as in previous years.

About the Survey

The Pew survey was conducted by telephone between July 23 and Aug. 13, 2013, among a citywide random sample of 1,605 city residents age 18 and older. Interviews were conducted with 530 landline users and 1,075 cellphone 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 plus or minus 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, record error, and respondent error.
Abt SRBI Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviewing, working with Cliff Zukin, a veteran pollster and professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers University.

This report was written by Emily Dowdall, a senior associate with Pew's Philadelphia research initiative, and edited by Larry Eichel, a director of Pew's Philadelphia program who oversees the research initiative.


The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today's most challenging problems. Pew's Philadelphia research initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis on key issues facing Philadelphia for the benefit of the city's citizens and