Pew Poll: Philadelphians Have a Huge Crush on Philly

Nearly half of city residents said Philly is on the right track, the highest number in six years. More millennials plan to stay too.

Gorgeous. |

Gorgeous. |

Philadelphians seem to be falling back in love with Philadelphia.

A new poll from The Pew Charitable Trusts finds that 48 percent of Philadelphians think the city is moving in the right direction, the highest percentage since Pew began asking the question in 2009. Only a third of respondents said the city was on the wrong track.

Pew Philadelphia Poll

Source: The Pew Philadelphia Poll, 2015 © The Pew Charitable Trusts


Still more encouraging is that a whopping 67 percent of poll respondents said they expected the city to improve in the next five years, compared to a small, cynical slice of just 18 percent who expect the city will get worse. Three times as many Philadelphians would recommend friends move to the city as would not. Perhaps best of all, this rosier sentiment about Philadelphia extends across racial, income and age lines, said Larry Eichel, director of Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative (full disclosure: I’ve done some work for Pew’s research shop). “One of the striking things about this poll is that, with few exceptions, there aren’t a lot of tremendous differences in the crosstabs,” Eichel said.

To put these numbers in context, Philadelphians are feeling way more confident about the city than Americans overall are feeling about the nation. Most national polls are showing less than a third of Americans feel the country is on the right track, while two-thirds feel it is going in the wrong direction.

Locally, it’s a very different story. Black, white, Latino, rich, poor, young and old are all feeling better about Philadelphia than they have in quite some time. And, yes, millennials are very much among those enthused about Philadelphia’s trajectory. More of them now expect to make Philadelphia a long-term home than they did just two years ago.

Pew Philadelphia Poll

Source: The Pew Philadelphia Poll, 2015 © The Pew Charitable Trusts


On the political front, 52 percent of Philadelphians said they approved of the job Mayor Michael Nutter is doing; that’s a 13 point gain from the summer of 2013, when news of the Market Street building collapse and the school district crisis was dominating the headlines. City Council got a significant bump in its approval rating too in this poll, up to 40 percent approving (42 percent disapproving), compared to a wretched 30-57 approval/disapproval split in 2013.

The poll suggests one reason why Council’s rep might be improving: the scuttled sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works. While 45 percent of respondents had no opinion on the proposed sale, those who did opposed the transaction by a margin of about two-to-one. (More on that interesting finding later today on Citified.)

Pew asked another highly topical question: How confident are you that city police treat blacks and whites equally? Only 55 percent of respondents said they were a great deal or fairly confident, compared to 45 percent who said they were only a little confident or not confident at all that police treat blacks and whites equally. On this question, responses varied considerably by race. As Pew puts it:

The racial and ethnic differences were pronounced. Sixty-eight percent of whites expressed confidence in the police to deliver equal treatment while 29 percent voiced a lack of confidence. Among blacks, the attitudes were quite different: 47 percent expressed confidence while 51 percent took the opposite viewpoint. The results for Hispanics were similar to those for blacks.

There was also some noteworthy disparity among income groups on the overall right direction / wrong track question. Perhaps unsurprisingly, wealthier residents were more likely than low-income residents to view Philadelphia’s trajectory positively. Eichel said that 61 percent of respondents with incomes over $100,000 said the city was moving in the right direction, compared to just 45 percent of those residents earning less than $30,000 a year. But that’s a pretty standard differential. What’s more telling is that both cohorts felt considerably more positive about the city in 2015 than they did in 2013. Indeed, that’s the takeaway of this poll: Philadelphians of all kinds are feeling much better about their city.

In all, Pew surveyed 1,603 residents. The poll’s margin of error is 2.5 percentage points.

Check back in with us later today for political analysis on what lessons the poll has to teach us about the mayoral and City Council races.