A three-year Gallup study of 26 U.S. cities (released in 2010) found that people’s love and passion for their community may be a leading indicator for local economic growth. 

Surprisingly, social offerings, openness, and beauty are more important than people’s perceptions of the economy, jobs, or essential services in creating a lasting emotional bond between people and their community. 

The 26 cities in the survey with the highest levels of resident love and passion for their community, or resident attachment, also had the highest GDP growth rates over time. 

This study is critical because its findings about emotional attachment point to a new perspective that I encourage leaders to consider; it is especially valuable as we aim to strengthen our communities during this tough economic time. 


Three community qualities—social offerings, openness, and beauty—have consistently emerged as the leading drivers for community attachment over the study’s three years of research. They beat out other possible drivers, such as perceptions of the local economy, leadership, and safety across all 26 cities included in the Knight Soul of the Community survey. 

The Soul of the Community survey explores the connection between local economic growth and people’s emotional bond to a place. Three years of survey data clearly show a significant, positive link between resident attachment and local GDP growth. 

One theory is that when a community’s residents are highly attached, they will spend more time there, spend more money, be more productive, and be more entrepreneurial. 

The study bears out that theory and now provides all community leaders the knowledge they need to sustainably impact their community. 

Within a smaller environment, such as a company, Gallup has shown that increasing employees’ emotional connection to their company leads to the improved financial performance of the organization. Experts continue to explore if the emotional connection to the place where one lives drives economic growth for these communities in a similar way. 


The things that create the greatest emotional connection between people and their community—social offerings, openness, and aesthetics—have remained stable for three years and are consistent among the 26 cities studied. 

These three things were reliably rated highest among ten drivers of resident attachment, which also included civic involvement, social capital, education, perception of the local economy, leadership, safety, emotional well-being, and essential services. 

Perception of the local economy is not a leading reason residents create an emotional bond to a place. 

Complete results of the Soul of the Community survey are available online at www.soulofthecommunity.org

What do you think? Do you have an emotional bond to your neighborhood? Do you think that bond (or lack of) makes an economic impact in your community?