2012 Community Survey

The City of Vancouver conducts a community survey to gauge residents’ opinions on the performance of the City and what they consider key challenges and priorities. This statistically valid survey has been conducted since 1996 and every two years since 2002.  Similar questions are asked to gauge changes in resident’s opinions over time. Results help inform City leaders on how best to meet the community’s needs as part of the upcoming budget planning process. 

This year, as in 2010, we commissioned a scientifically accurate phone poll of our residents by an independent research firm. The City then posted the same survey questions on our website to gauge online opinion.

In April 2012, ETC Institute, a national leader in community surveys for government agencies, conducted the random phone poll of residents and businesses across Vancouver on behalf of the City. Results include benchmark comparisons to prior years and geographic analysis. This research study cost $11,400.

Our research team used residents’ home or cell phone numbers as an official contact method. The majority of residents still have land lines and this survey is a random sample, meaning that fewer are contacted by cell phone. In 2010, ETC Institute conducted the phone survey for the City and also mailed surveys to Vancouver residents – they advised us of no significant differences in data between a phone or mailed survey.

The report below includes key findings of the ETC Institute phone survey.

On April 20, 2012, we posted the same survey questions online to the City’s website after the phone poll was complete. This survey closed  May 14, 2012.  This survey is meant to gauge opinions of a different and important audience – however, it is not statistically accurate and allows those not heard by the random survey sample to be heard. 

The final 2012 Community Survey report will include comparisons of  phone and online survey results, triangulated with other relevant data, for the City Council and City Manager in June. We do not recommend that you make a major decision based on a single survey.

About the 2012 Community Survey – Phone Poll by ETC Institute:

  • This was a scientific survey with a statistically valid sample size.
  • 403 households took the survey, and our response rate was 44%, which is excellent.
  • ETC Institute indicates a precision of +/- 5% for results.
  • Single-year changes of less than 3% should generally be considered insignificant.
  • 53% of the respondents live east of I-205, 25% in central Vancouver and 21% in west. This may represent a slight skew toward the east side locations.
  • The demographics match our community and the previous survey. The only real variation was that we included a slight over representation of some minority groups, but their numbers were small enough they did not affect the outcome.
  • Researchers used residents’ cell phone numbers or land lines as official contact methods.

Major Findings

Residents were generally satisfied with the overall livability of the City of Vancouver.

Over three-fourths (77%) rated the livability as either “very high” or “high”;

19% were “neutral”, 3% responded “low;” 1% gave a rating of “very low”. 

Most residents were satisfied with the quality of life in Vancouver.

Eighty-two percent (82%) said they were satisfied with the quality of life in Vancouver.

15% gave a neutral response, and 4% were dissatisfied.

Residents are generally more satisfied with the quality of services provided by the City than they were two years ago. 

  • Sixty-eight percent (vs. 54% in 2010) indicated that they were satisfied (“very satisfied” or “satisfied”) with the quality of services provided by the city of Vancouver.

The level of support for specific actions to balance the City budget. 

  • Fifty-eight percent (58%) of respondents were supportive (“very supportive” or “supportive”) of using voter-approved taxes or levys to fund specific services.
  • The second highest support (35%) was pursuing different service delivery models, such as contracts for services.
  • They are less willing today to accept cuts than they were in 2010.

Respondents rated the importance they placed upon various City services 

The five most important City services according to respondents were:

  • Medical emergency response (911)
  • Fire emergency response (911)
  • Police emergency response (911)
  • Drinking water quality
  • Garbage and recycling services

Respondents also rated their satisfaction levels with the same various City services 

The five City services with the highest levels of satisfaction according to respondents were:

  • Medical emergency response (911)
  • Fire emergency response (911)
  • Garbage & recycling services
  • Police emergency response (911)
  • Drinking water quality

The five City services with the lowest levels of satisfaction according to respondents were:

  • Efforts to encourage job growth & business development
  • Outdoor sports and athletic fields
  • Indoor Recreation Centers and Facilities
  • Youth recreation programs
  • Adult recreation programs

Greatest changes / key takeaways compared to 2010:

  • Quality of life score has returned to pre-recession level, despite economic challenges.
  • Perceived value, quality of services, performance and satisfaction with city have improved.
  • People are significantly more (14%) confident that we can provide adequate services within revenue over the long term – and most of those were shifts from “not confident.”
  • They are less willing today to accept cuts or raise taxes than they were in 2010.
  • Road conditions are seen as a major issue.
  • Residents generally feel safe in Vancouver.
  • Satisfaction is high in the five services rated most important.
  • Most important areas of focus from the matrix comparing perceived importance to current satisfaction level by residents:
    • EMS, fire, police, garbage & recycling, building jobs.

Quality of Life

  • People are more satisfied with quality of life in Vancouver, its livability and are more satisfied about the quality of City services.
  • There are slight improvements over 2010 in overall livability.
  • Transportation and jobs are the top two challenges facing the City, same as 2010. Concerns about City Budget has dropped in importance and so have jobs.

Service Delivery satisfaction

Satisfaction should be compared to importance for priority insight; the matrix allows us to focus efforts on service delivery. (High satisfaction could mean “we are doing enough in the current economy.”)

  • People appear to be satisfied that we are taking the right actions with services, and the matrix indicates we are nearing a good balance of services within available resources.I
  • Infrastructure maintenance is a serious issue; Maintenance of Neighborhood streets arterials and Parks maintenance are above average importance – street maintenance needs more effort.
  • This is the first time Parks maintenance has shown a higher level of importance, which may mean that residents have noticed service cuts and more cuts may not be OK.

High satisfaction or major positive changes in satisfaction - major improvements included:

  • Building permits and code enforcement (+7%,) now rated higher than NW average
  • Efforts to improve government efficiency went up 8% (“efficiency” to the public may mean cuts.) This survey has responses in other sections that indicate lower tolerance for service cuts. The satisfaction vs. importance matrix appears to be in overall balance;  “efficiency” was in need of more attention in 2010.
  • Neighborhood coordination and outreach went up 10%.
  • Code enforcement improved 7%, City efforts manage growth was up 6% and Building Permits went up 7%.
  • Outdoor sports & athletic fields increased 5%.
  • A new question replaced a discontinued service - the City’s public communications through website and CVTV was rated at a 63% satisfaction rate but we have no prior year’s data for comparison. In general, various outreach efforts are seen as less important but with higher satisfaction.

Satisfaction went down in some other areas:

  • Street maintenance (-5% neighborhoods; -3% major streets)
  • They are least satisfied with efforts to stimulate job growth (but want more effort put toward this), outdoor sports, indoor recreation, youth and adult recreation.
  • Parks maintenance has increased in importance, and was rated at 6% less satisfaction.
  • Youth recreation programs decreased 6%.

Transportation and streets

  • Transportation is the highest concern facing the City, up from 34% to 39% of the votes. Other responses throughout the survey consistently show this as a high concern.
    • Rating of road conditions has generally improved, but is still very low.
    • Specific satisfaction with neighborhood streets has gone down the most from 56% to 51%, and major streets from 52% to 49%. This indicates residents are seeing the results of paving projects but it is not enough to meet their expectations.
    • Perception of safety while driving continues to stay high  but dropped (80% down from 83%). All other areas of safety are either stable or have improved.
    • Satisfaction with street maintenance is down.

Financial Questions

  • People are 14% more confident that we can live within our current means over the long term – and most of those were shifts from “not confident.”
  • Overall, people are much less supportive of any service cuts than in 2010.
  • Street maintenance, lighting and traffic improvements all were significantly less acceptable service cuts.
  • Respondents are not supportive of raising taxes, less so than two years ago.
    • 58% would support voter-approved taxes for specific service levies and this was rated highest (40%) over other solutions to meet budget challenges, such as new service models, general tax increase and program elimination or overall cuts.
    • But fewer than half were willing to personally pay more in taxes for the highest priority services – the highest was 33% for Fire and EMS.
    • Citizens were much more willing to accept cuts in recreation facilities and programs for adults (18% drop in support from 2010) than cuts to parks maintenance and operation hours (10% drop in desire for cuts) or recreation programs for kids and teens (8% less than 2010)
  • Respondents are somewhat more satisfied with the value for City services.
  • They rate our performance as a City government about the same as 2010.

Are respondents personally willing to pay more taxes to improve specific services?  

  • Fewer than half were willing to pay more to improve the highest priority services.
  • Highest support (33%) were willing to pay more in taxes to improve fire/emergency medical response.
  • Next highest, (31%) said they’d pay more to improve roads and street quality.

Benchmarking – Comparison to the NW and US, our residents’ perceptions:

  • Value: Our residents have a higher than average perception of service quality (+13%) and value for their tax dollar (+15%) than other NW cities.
  • Safety: Perceptions of safety are generally unchanged from 2010. Feeling safe walking here was rated higher than NW or US except at night, when our residents feel 13-19% less safe than NW or US respondents.
  • Overall satisfaction with emergency response:
    • Police (12% over NW,)  Fire (+4%) and EMS (+2-3%) higher than NW and US.
  • We are rated lower in satisfaction for maintenance of major streets compared to NW (-6%) and US (-10%.)
  • Overall satisfaction with Parks and Recreation:
    • 11-15% lower in maintenance of City parks;
    • 12-15% lower in youth recreation programs; 10% lower in indoor recreation centers and facilities;
    • About equal in adult recreation programs, trails and outdoor sports.