Residents seem pleased with the quality of life in Gahanna, but a shift in communications is affecting attitudes toward government, according to results of a recent survey.
Dr. Hugh Clark of CJI Research Corp. provided a summary of the resident satisfaction survey during the Nov. 19 Gahanna City Council meeting.
He highlighted several observations of the latest results, including the fact that citizens are pleased with life in Gahanna and residents' attitudes reflect national trends.
Clark said a fundamental change in the mode of communication is having significant effects on attitudes toward government and creating major challenges in communicating about civic affairs.
When it comes to keeping citizens informed, the survey results show residents don't read the newspaper anymore if they make all of their calls on a cellphone.
"They spend a lot of time on Facebook," Clark said. "This has major implications for how a civic body has to communicate."
For residents who make calls exclusively on a cell, 24 percent rated the city as doing a poor job of keeping them informed about major issues that might affect city services or local taxes. Another 24 percent rated the city as doing a very poor job.
On the other hand, 30 percent of those surveyed who don't use cellphones said the city does a very good job of keeping them informed, and another 36 percent said the city does a good job.
"There's a communication revolution with the movement to social media," Clark said.
Council member Ryan Jolley said there's sharp disparity in those who use a cell and those who don't, concerning how they rate the city.
"People using those (social media) outlets are getting more opinion-based, person-to-person information (compared) to news articles," Jolley said. "Do you have any experience with data of this type?"
Clark said much remains in flux thus far.
"There is all kinds of debate in what's going on with new ways to communicate," he said. "There's a lot of gut feeling but no hard data."
When asked what information sources residents turn to first for local affairs, 38 percent of those surveyed said they go to the local weekly newspaper. That's a decrease from 52 percent who went to the paper in 2010 and 57 percent in 2008.
In 2012, 23 percent of those surveyed said they first go to the Internet for information; 16 percent go to the city's website; 10 percent turn to the Gateway; 7 percent use social media; and 3 percent cited word of mouth.
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they use social media, up from 28 percent in 2010. Forty-four percent of those surveyed said they currently don't use social media. In 2010, 72 percent of the respondents didn't use social media.
Of those who use social media for local events, 31 percent said they go to Facebook; 6 percent use Twitter; 4 percent uses Pinterest; 3 percent, Linked-In; and 1 percent, Instagram.
When it comes to job performance, residents were asked how well the mayor and city council are doing.
Sixty-four percent said the mayor's performance is favorable, compared to 76 percent in 2010 and 83 percent in 2008.
Sixty-four percent of the respondents also gave city council a favorable rating, compared to 69 percent in 2010 and 75 percent in 2008.
"Council is a little less visible than the mayor," Clark said. "The downward trend is similar to the nation. The bottom line is that it's not something to be too concerned about. But it's moving toward the wrong direction."
When asked about quality of life in Gahanna, residents said they like it.
"The quality of life is good," Clark said. "Not only do they like it, but they like it more than they did in 2008."
Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said quality of life is very good, compared to 55 percent in 2010 and 45 percent in 2008.
Seventy-six percent of respondents said the city is moving in the right direction compared to 68 percent in 2010 and 81 percent in 2008.
When asked an open-ended question as to why residents believe the city is moving in the right direction, the most dominant response was because of a good infrastructure and community planning. The schools were the second-most common response, followed by fiscal responsibility in city government and policy.
Not including Gahanna schools, residents were asked how they rate city services they get for the tax paid to the city.
Thirty-two percent said they get a very good value to the tax dollar; 44 percent said a good value; 5 percent said just average; 13 percent said poor; 2 percent said very poor; and 5 percent weren't sure.
When residents were asked about changing the city's income-tax rate from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent, 68 percent disapproved. That's an increase from 64 percent in 2010.
If an increase in income tax would include the building of walking and bicycle trails, 51 percent said the hike would be more worthwhile. Forty-three percent said it would be more worthwhile if the increase included indoor recreation space for residents.
When residents were asked which community has features they would like to see in Gahanna, Clark said, Westerville pops up. Residents like such amenities as recreation and community centers.
"The Westerville mention interested me," Clark said. "They aren't saying New Albany or Dublin."
The resident survey was conducted during the fall with Gahanna registered voters, including 300 residents who were interviewed by telephone and 100 who were mailed a request to participate by going online or by calling a toll-free number.
Clark conducted Gahanna's first comprehensive resident survey in 2008 and follow-ups in 2010 and 2012 to monitor satisfaction with city services and gauge the wants, needs and priorities of residents.
The survey cost $23,000 and was included in the 2012 appropriations.
Complete results will be available online at gahanna.gov.