City survey finds respondents like Charlotte

A recent city of Charlotte survey found that most residents like the city and think they have a “high quality of life” in the Queen City, but some officials question whether the survey represents the whole community.

The survey found that 80 percent of respondents said the overall quality of life in Charlotte was excellent or good.

Sixty percent said it was an excellent or good place to retire; about 70 percent gave it similar high marks for cleanliness; and just under 80 percent said it’s a good or excellent place to raise children.

The city paid $25,000 to partner with the Boulder, Colo.-based National Research Center to conduct what’s known as the National Citizen Survey. The group mailed 3,000 surveys randomly to residents, and respondents returned 400.

When the results of the survey were presented April 14, some council members were concerned the survey didn’t reach enough residents in low-income areas, where people might not be as optimistic about Charlotte.

“I want to know whether the positive feedback we received came from a broad swath of a district or one segment of a district,” said council member Michael Barnes, an at-large member who used to represent District 4.

The results of the survey were anonymous.

But the National Research Center did collect some information about the people who answered, such as race, income, age and in which City Council district they reside.

Of the 401 returned surveys, 81 were from District 6 and 72 were from District 7, both in south Charlotte. So about 38 percent of the responses came from those areas, which are mostly white and contain some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city.

Responses were lower from District 4 in University City (44 responses) and District 3 in west Charlotte (46 responses).

Sixty-three people returned the survey from District 1, which includes expensive neighborhoods such as Dilworth, Myers Park and Eastover but also low-income areas such as Belmont. But it is unclear whether the surveys came from people living in million-dollar homes or those with a value of $150,000.

An analysis of respondents show that whites, women and homeowners were over-represented among those who responded.

The National Research Center attempted to compensate for that by “weighting” the survey, giving extra value to the answers of under-represented groups, such as Hispanics and African-Americans. Weighting surveys is common.

Tom Jensen, director of Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, a well-known polling organization that conducts polls across the country, said it’s common for surveys of residents to be conducted through the mail. He added that getting 400 replies out of 3,000 surveys sent is a good response rate. Public Policy Polling did not participate in the Charlotte survey.

But he added that his pollsters will attempt to reach people as many as six times over a span of three to four days in an attempt to elicit responses from reluctant participants.

He said the people most likely to respond to surveys or polls are older and white. “The core problem is that generally the sort of people who respond skew older, and they are more white than African-American or Latino,” Jensen said.

Katie McCoy, of the city’s budget and evaluation office, said the city worked to reach respondents numerous times, through postcard mailings and phone calls.

The study compared Charlotte against 45 other cities with populations between 200,000 and 2.5 million people.

On 123 questions, Charlotte received similar ratings. It received higher ratings on eight questions and lower ratings on four questions.