YMCA Survey Reveals Americans are Uncertain but Hopeful about the Future of their Communities

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Y Community Snapshot respondents would move today if they could, yet are relying more on themselves to improve the quality of their neighborhoods

“In communities across the country, kids are behind in school, preventable chronic diseases are on the rise and people are without the health and social resources they need to thrive,” said Neil Nicoll, president and CEO, YMCA of the USA.

Today, YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), the national resource office of the Y, and a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, released the Y Community Snapshot – a consumer survey measuring the quality of life in communities across the nation. The survey examined how Americans rate their communities in terms of core strength drivers including: types of community involvement; healthy active lifestyles; education, youth and family life; and quality community services.

The findings reveal that many Americans are wary of what the future holds for their communities—58 percent would move now if they could—but are committed to making their communities better and want to get involved, take action and make a difference. In fact, when asked who has the greatest opportunity and responsibility to make a difference in improving the quality of life in their community, half of the respondents reported “me, my family and other members of our community.”

According to the March Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, consumers feel the worst economic trouble is behind them and they are more confident about future prospects than they have in a very long time. However, the Y Community Snapshot reveals that many Americans are still concerned about the quality of life in their communities today and are not so sure their communities will rebound. In fact, when asked to grade their current communities’ strength, on average, respondents gave a rating of B-, showing communities across the nation are on the cusp, with the need for building stronger communities. In addition, the Y Community Snapshot found that Americans want communities that are safer, cleaner, offer access to more public health clinics and show a stronger commitment to improving children’s nutrition and overall health and wellness.

“In communities across the country, kids are behind in school, preventable chronic diseases are on the rise and people are without the health and social resources they need to thrive,” said Neil Nicoll, president and CEO, YMCA of the USA. “By coming together to strengthen communities, people can make lasting social change that nurtures our kids’ potential, improves health and well-being and supports neighbors. Today, the Y has 500,000 volunteers in 10,000 communities across the U.S. pioneering such change with activities that range from building sidewalks and growing community gardens to helping kids read at grade-level. All it takes is commitment.”    

With 2,700 Ys across the nation, the Y helps fill the gap by providing places where people can pool their efforts to strengthen communities. With 57 percent of U.S. households located within three miles from a Y, the opportunity to get involved and find ways to change your community today is easier than imagined. Today, across the United States, the Y is extending its reach into communities to nurture the potential of youth and teens, improve the nation's health and well-being and provide opportunities to support neighbors.

The Y Community Snapshot found:

  •     58 percent of respondents say they would move away from their community right now if they could, but the economy and their financial situations make moving increasingly difficult and not an option. Unable to move, Americans are putting more responsibility on local governments and themselves to impact change;
  •     63 percent of respondents say they will get more involved in their communities this year and will contribute goods, services, facilities or other non-monetary resources to a worthy cause or organization;
  •     76 percent of respondents say they are concerned about crime in their community, and according to a recent Gallup poll, nearly half of Americans say there is more crime where they live today than there was a year ago. A safe environment ranked as the most important quality in building a strong community;
  •     The vast majority of respondents (72 percent) reported that budget cuts by government, social services and non-profit community organizations have had a negative impact on themselves and their families, with 22 percent saying they’ve felt a big negative impact.

Additionally, five noteworthy qualities respondents say are “highly important’ for building and sustaining a strong community include:

  •     91 percent of Americans say providing a safe environment for children is important;
  •     87 percent of citizens say neighborhood upkeep and preventing littering is important for building a strong community;
  •     79 percent of citizens felt it was important for communities to have public health clinics, affordable medications, and diet and nutrition counseling;
  •     78 percent of citizens felt a commitment to improving children’s nutrition, diet and overall health and wellness is important when it comes to building a strong community;
  •     77 percent of citizens felt exercise, sports and recreation facilities and programs are very important when it comes to building a strong community;

The YMCA’s Community Snapshot was conducted online by Toluna Greenfield Online (http://www.toluna-group.com), between Dec. 6 and 13, 2011 and is an opinion survey of 1,000 online interviews with U.S. adults aged 18+ conforming to U.S. Census parameters for age, gender, and region of residence. The survey has a total of 34 questions and a ±1.5% - 3.0% margin of error at 95% confidence.

For more information, or to see additional survey results, please visit ymca.net.

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