4.  Community Survey Results


Statement of Issue: 

This section presents the results of a community-wide survey used to assess resident satisfaction and perceptions as well as gather input for the development of the FY 2022 – FY 2026 Strategic Plan.

Staff Recommendation:

No Board action required.


In developing the previous FY 2017 – FY 2021 Strategic Plan, the County surveyed approximately 600 citizens from Board-appointed advisory committees, LEADS Listening Sessions, and other citizen engagement events. Staff presented the survey results at the December 2016 Board Retreat and the input proved instrumental in developing the County's Vision Statement and informing the Strategic Priority areas of Economy, Environment, Quality of Life, and Governance.

Building upon the success of the 2016 survey, staff recommended, and the Board approved engaging a consulting firm to develop a more extensive, community-wide survey that would be conducted during the final year of the County’s five-year strategic planning cycle.  The community-wide survey gathers data from a representative sample of all Leon County residents representing all local neighborhoods. Survey data provides information and analysis on the community's values and priorities. By engaging a consulting firm with experience in conducting comprehensive community surveys, the County ensured a larger and more diverse representation of countywide citizen input for the development of the FY 2022 – FY 2026 Strategic Plan.


To present the results of the community survey, the Board will be joined by Dr. Karen Cyphers, Partner & Vice President of Research for Sachs Media. The following is an executive summary of the community survey conducted by Sachs Media including an overview of the methodology, key findings, as well as an analysis of resident responses. A more detailed summary of the survey is also included as Attachment #1.  As noted throughout the Retreat materials, recommendations regarding the FY 2022 – FY 2026 Strategic Plan were developed using the results of the community survey, environmental scan, SWOT analysis, as well as Commissioner input.  


  1. Methodology

A survey of Leon County residents was conducted November 10-27, 2021, to gauge resident satisfaction, perceptions, and suggestions across a variety of issues, and to determine sentiment relating to Leon County’s broad Strategic Priorities.

A total of 4,090 residents began the survey, with 3,145 completing the final substantive question. Respondents were recruited through two separate methods: (1) random sampling of the Leon County voter file, and (2) recruitment through community partners. Results on each question were compared between each of these cohorts in order to identify any significant differences between samples.  No meaningful differences were found, permitting an analysis of the results as a single sample. Results are representative of Leon County residents in terms of age, race and ethnicity, gender, ZIP code, political affiliation, employment status, education level, and homeownership status. Complete demographic breakdowns of respondents are provided within the report. The average margin of error is +/- 1.7% at the 95% confidence level.


  1. Key Takeaways

In reviewing the survey results, the Sachs team identified the following key takeaways:



Satisfaction levels and preferences do vary somewhat among resident demographic groups on specific issues, which will be detailed below. Overall, it is notable that satisfaction appears greater among certain populations, including older residents; those who have lived in Leon County for longer periods of time; Black and Hispanic residents; those who live in certain ZIP codes, such as 32317 and 32308; homeowners; and those who live outside Tallahassee city limits.


Leon County’s FY 2017 – FY 2021 Strategic Plan laid out four broad Strategic Priorities: Economy, Environment, Quality of Life, and Governance. For each of these priority areas, strategic initiatives, goals, and targets were identified and initiated. The results of this survey suggest that the preferences of Leon County residents are well aligned with the goals and priorities set in the Strategic Plan, and that residents are largely satisfied with progress made in each of these areas.


  1. Topline Findings

The following analysis provides a more detailed summary of responses to both the multiple choice and open ended the survey questions. Additionally, this section provides the data and statistics that support the key takeaways of the survey. 














As noted previously, the survey found that a majority of residents have a positive perception of the County and the services provided by Leon County Government.  Only a very small portion of survey respondents had a negative perception. However, to better understand the perception of this group, those who gave Leon County a “poor” rating were asked to share why.  Their responses had a large degree of commonality across issue areas, but often were not related to Leon County Government. Frequently, respondents said their negative perceptions of Leon County were due to issues experienced within the City limits or dissatisfaction with other local government entities.


The 20% of residents who gave Leon County a “poor” rating as a “community moving in the right direction” were asked to share why they gave this rating. The top responses reflect both political perceptions and policy disagreements, as seen in issues including regulations that are perceived as too liberal or progressive, trends relating to development and growth, and crime rates and violence. Other responses relate to the perception of corruption, high costs of living, homelessness, traffic, a lack of community activities or culture, and inequity. Patterns in these responses reflect significant overlap among responses from those who express dissatisfaction with Leon County as a place to live and raise a family, as a place to retire, as a safe community, and as place where people are healthy, safe, and connected to their community.


The 34% of respondents who gave Leon County a “poor” rating as a “tourism destination with diverse offerings” and the 11% of respondents who gave it that rating as a “place for recreation” cited factors such as “not much to do”, “few options aside from parks”, crime, and the feeling that the community is too focused on college-area activities and sports. Many expressed dissatisfaction with limited museums, art, or culture, while others cited airport limitations and rail access.


The 18% of respondents who gave Leon County a “poor” rating as a “place to start a business” and the 14% who rated it “poor” as a “place to work” cited difficulties for mom-and-pop businesses relative to chains, inadequate or low wages, too much red tape or regulation, and a local market that is limited by population size and local wealth. Crime, corruption, a “good ol’ boy network,” high taxes, and dissatisfaction with vaccine and mask mandates were also mentioned.


When it comes to perceptions of safety, the 20% who gave Leon County a “poor” rating report dissatisfaction with crime rates, particularly violent crimes, as well as burglary rates and spotty police presence. Beyond crime, dissatisfied residents also cited road conditions, traffic fatalities, homelessness or loiterers, and drugs. Many residents point out that the feeling of safety depends on where in the county one lives, while others said a lack of compliance with masks and social distancing leads people to feel unsafe.


One in three respondents (33%) gave Leon County a “poor” rating as a “place with affordable housing options.” Those who gave this rating cited multiple reasons, including high rent relative to the local economy, local wages not keeping up with the housing market, a short supply or inventory of housing options, high taxes, and the feeling that too many areas are unsafe to live. Other cited the feeling that recent high-end development doesn’t match what residents need, while others reported feeling that there is a high extent of housing discrimination or segregation.



Perceptions About 1 in 4 respondents (23%) gave Leon County a “poor” rating in terms of “listening to and responding to citizens.” When asked why they gave this rating, many expressed concern with recent local decisions – some of them actually City of Tallahassee concerns – including the location of the new police headquarters, selection of the new police chief, the Amazon property, Welaunee expansion, and stadium funding.  In each of these cases, some respondents saw local governments as unresponsive to community input. Other responses relate to dissatisfaction with mask and vaccine mandates, the perception of a lack of attention to road and traffic issues, difficulty reaching employees by phone or the perception that government workers are overworked or understaffed, and concerns with racism, discrimination, and corruption. These responses are similar to those among individuals who gave Leon County a “poor” rating for “transparency and accessibility,” where examples of corruption were the most common reason given.



In addition to the multiple-choice questions summarized previously, all respondents were provided the opportunity to answer the following three (3) open-ended questions about life in Leon County. The following is a summary of the most common responses provided by residents. Again, it is important to note that many of the suggestions provided by residents focus on issues and services overseen by other local governmental entities.


When asked for any other important local issues they would want Leon County to focus on, the largest portions of responses related to crime reduction (14%), school improvements (13%), and issues with roads and traffic (12%). These are followed by a desire to see sustainable development including preservation of trees and the feel of the community (7%), housing access (7%), lower taxes and spending (5%), public transportation (4%), and economic inequality (3%). Respondents also indicated a desire for less political division among people, as well as more performance arts, culture, and recreation, and improved waste pickup.



Finally, when it comes to offering a more livable community for seniors, top suggestions included greater access to senior services (27%). The other most common responses include increased access to transportation (12%), better sidewalks (8%), reduced crime (8%), and improved access to medical care (7%). This question was added to the survey to support Leon County and the City of Tallahassee in jointly pursuing the designation of an AARP Age-Friendly Community Network and ensue the area continues to be an ideal location for those over age 65, the fastest growing age group in the County. 


  1. Detailed Analysis of Community Survey Results