On Thursday, June 27, 2013, a full report by the research institution that conducted the Riverside Community Survey was presented to the Seizing Our Destiny Champions Council and other Riverside leaders. The purpose of the Survey was to gather, analyze and share actionable data about the opinions of Riversiders regarding their quality of life, and to spark community-wide engagement for improvements.
The Survey was conducted in conjunction with the Institute of Applied Research and Policy Analysis (IAR) at California State University, San Bernardino and was designed to be a research study measuring a sample of Riversiders that matched Census 2010 demographics, but that also allowed for widespread community input and engagement.
To achieve this, three survey methods were used in order to elicit information from a sample large enough to be analyzed by age, gender, home zip code and race/ethnicity: Phone, Online and Paper. However, of the three, only the phone survey can be considered statistically valid because it is a random sampling of City of Riverside residents; those that had either a landline or cell phone had an equal chance of being contacted. The Online and Paper versions were conducted to broaden participation and feedback and all three methods were available in English or Spanish.
Inarguably, the most critical feedback was extremely promising and optimistic: across racial/ethnic, age and income groups, residents have a tremendous feeling of pride in Riverside. In fact, 90.2% of all phone interview respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they are “proud to live in Riverside”, and 84.9% “feel a sense of belonging to their community.”
“These results confirm what a lot of Riversiders know in their hearts – they love their city and they feel good about living here,” Mayor Rusty Bailey said. “The survey also provides valuable insight into where we can do better in changing conditions, perceptions or both.”
What other feedback does the survey provide to current and future leaders and influencers?
On the positive side, Riversiders think the city is a good place to raise a family and are happy with the schools and educational opportunities (with positive ratings for the full educational pipeline); they see their community as a good place for affordable living or to locate a business, to be active and healthy, and, by a sizeable majority, Riversiders see their community as a good place to enjoy and participate in arts and culture opportunities.
While it is important to celebrate the positive, some of the key feedback identified areas that could still use some attention or have Riversiders concerned. Good or bad, in many instances, it seems to be a matter of communication.
For example, although a strong majority felt Riverside “is a good place to own or operate a business or nonprofit organization,” the perception of Riverside being business-friendly and the awareness of business/entrepreneur resources is not as strong as desired. It is an area that City, Chamber and organizations such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) have made a priority over the past several years, but these results indicate that more creative methods of sharing information need to be explored.
Other areas that have made progress in some aspects, yet still have room for improvement include Riverside’s level of volunteerism and giving, neighborhood connectedness, and perceptions of air and water quality.
Of most concern to Riversiders is the progress made in addressing homelessness, lack of good jobs and the perception of safety in some geographic areas.
In response to these findings, Damien O’Farrell, one of the five Co-Chairs for Seizing Our Destiny, said “While we know we have made strides in some of the areas that are concerning residents and businesses, where the results of the survey are showing that we are falling short there’s still work to do together as a community of engaged Riversiders taking ownership in our own success - and these results will help guide our efforts.”
More detailed information and data supporting the key findings are included in the full report that can be downloaded at www.RiversideSurvey.com.
The complete report is being made available to the public so that community, civic, elected, neighborhood and faith-based leaders and institutions can use it to help guide their decisions about programs, services and community-building initiatives. However, for those that are just interested in the highlights, the cover memo to the report provides a summary of the findings with page numbers directing you to learn more about specific aspects.