Building for the 21st Century: American support for sustainable communities

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, April 25th, 2011



A recent poll by Smart Growth America has found that in the midst of a struggling U.S. economy, support for smart growth strategies remains high among Americans on both sides of the aisle.

The poll focused specifically on support for sustainable communities: urban, suburban or rural communities that have more housing and transportation choices, are closer to jobs, shops or schools, are more energy independent and help protect clean air and water. Making communities more sustainable means generating more jobs, lowering housing and transportation costs and using limited public funds more wisely.

As the U.S. economy incrementally recovers, Americans want the federal government to stop spending into deficit and use the money it does have more effectively. Smart growth strategies do just that by reducing infrastructure costs at the state and federal level, strengthening local and state revenues and building economic wealth by investing in existing communities.

Smart Growth America’s poll reveals that Americans understand the benefits of sustainable communities and want to see more of them. The poll of 1,200 people was conducted in late 2010 by Collective Strength and reviewed by Harris Interactive. The results are calibrated to mirror current U.S. Census estimates for age, race, income, gender and region, with a +/- 3% margin of error. The poll was made possibly through funding from the Ford Foundation.

Major Findings

The majority of Americans – regardless of political affiliation – support sustainable communities.
The survey found that 79% of Americans overall support the idea of an “urban, suburban, or rural community that has more housing and transportation choices, is closer to jobs, shops or schools, is more energy independent, and helps protect clean air and water.” 76% of Independent voters, 72% of Republicans, 89% of Democrats and 65% of those polled with no party affiliation support this idea. Only 5% of respondents said they opposed this idea.

The majority of Americans believe their region needs more sustainable communities.
Americans living in all types of areas – in rural, suburban and urban areas alike – want more sustainable communities. When asked whether their region of the country needs more sustainable communities, 66% of respondents replied yes. Only 15% said no, 19% were not sure. 74% of Americans in urban areas, 67% of Americans in suburban areas and 54% of  Americans in rural areas agreed that their region needs more sustainable communities. 61% of Independent voters agreed, along with 58% of Republicans, 79% of Democrats and 54% of those polled with no party affiliation.

Most Americans believe that sustainable communities are an important part of rebuilding the national economy.
More than 80% of voters nationwide agree that sustainable communities are an important part of rebuilding the national economy, ranking the issue 5 or above on a 10-point scale. In addition, 43% of Independent voters, along with 43% of Republicans, 66% of Democrats and 50% of those polled with no party affiliation believe that sustainable communities are extremely important – ranking the issue a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale – for rebuilding the American economy. Research shows that smart growth solutions create more jobs in our local communities, help people and our municipalities save money, and attract businesses to our neighborhoods.

The findings also reveal that spending on transportation infrastructure – like road repair, trains or buses – ranks higher than both investing in technology/innovation and investments in clean energy and green jobs as ways to rebuild the economy.

Download full version (PDF): Building for the 21st Century

About Smart Growth America

“Smart Growth America is the only national organization dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring smart growth practices to more communities worldwide. The coalition includes many of the best-known national organizations advocating on behalf of historic preservation, the environment, farmland and open space preservation, neighborhood revitalization and more.”

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