Poll: Philadelphians are pessimistic about the city’s future

philadelphia skyline
A poll released Wednesday by The Pew Charitable Trusts found Philadelphians have a pessimistic attitude toward the city.
Credit: Rikard Larma/Metro

A poll released Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts indicated Philadelphians’ pessimism toward the city is growing.

“On the whole, residents gave the city lower ratings than at any time over the five years Pew has been polling in Philadelphia,” directer of Pew’s Philadelphia program Larry Eichel said.

The biggest shift was in residents’ view of the future, with the proportion of Philadelphians expecting the city to improve in five years dropping to 52 percent this year, from a high of 68 percent in 2009.

“I think there’s no question that the education issue looms large in this poll,” Eichel said, noting the survey was conducted in late July and early August, when Superintendent William Hite said he was unsure whether schools would open on time.

“So certainly there was a lot of concern about education, and I think there was no question that influenced the mood of the city and everything in the poll.”

Mayor Michael Nutter’s approval ratings also plummeted to the lowest recorded by Pew, dropping 21 percentage points in just one year.

The report further found the level of optimism fell among two groups that have tended to view the city in a particularly positive light – residents with family incomes above $100,000 and those who have lived in the city for 10 years or less.

The percentage of those demographics who felt the city was on the right track fell 9 points, though the sentiment dropped only 2 percentage points among all respondents.

“As to why long-term residents have a more pessimistic view, I can’t really tell you why that is,” Eichel said.

“It’s certainly a phenomenon we’ve noticed throughout our polling. Another way of looking at it is people who have been here a shorter amount of time are more optimistic. That’s been a clear trend that persists throughout this survey, as well.”

But the poll showed the most negative views of the city came from Northeast Philadelphia residents, with 44 percent of them saying Philadelphia was worse off than five years earlier, compared with 37 percent of Philadelphia residents overall.

Thirty-eight percent of Northeast Philadelphians said they expected the city to get worse in five years, compared to 27 percent citywide.

Despite the negativity, 60 percent of Philadelphians said they considered the city a good or excellent place to live – roughly the same proportion as in previous years.

“It’s certainly possible that someone could take the ‘right direction, wrong track’ question as more of a short term question and then when they’re asked whether they think the city is a good place to live, they may think of that from a longer, broader viewpoint,” Eichel said.

“And despite the fact that they think the city may not be as good as it was and maybe it’s on the wrong track, but it’s still a good place to live – I don’t think there’s an inherent contradiction there.”

By the numbers

45% of respondents said the city was “off on the wrong track” and 37% said it was “headed in the right direction,” compared to 37% and 46% in 2009

37% of respondents said the city had become a worse place to live over the past five years and 25% said it became better, compared to 27% and 33% in 2009

52% of Philadelphians said they expected the city to improve in the next five years and 27% said they did not expect it to improve, compared to 68% and 14% in 2009

39% of residents said they approved of the mayor’s job performance and 52% disapproved, compared to 60% and 30% in 2012


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