How much do Las Vegans embrace their community? Turns out not very much. And one local leader is taking a step to change that after seeing the results of a UNLV study.
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani plans to call for a panel of architects, homebuilders, environmentalists, engineers, and sociologists to develop ways to improve the quality of life for Southern Nevadans. Just 58 percent say their quality of life is "fairly good." And 40 percent of Las Vegans surveyed by UNLV sociologists said if they could live anywhere they want, they'd leave Nevada.
"If residents feel a limited sense of attachment to their neighborhoods, then they are less willing to act together to solve neighborhood problems," said professor Robert Futrell, who worked on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Area Social Survey (LVMASS). "Strong neighborhood attachment could increase longer-term residents, who could anchor sustainable communities."
Las Vegans would like stronger bonds with their neighbors, but the town's transient nature, its fluctuating job market, and the difficulty planning agencies faced to keep up with the city's rapid population growth have made it difficult for people to get to know each other. Less than 37 percent surveyed feel connected to Las Vegas and only 33 percent are strongly connected to their neighborhood.
Incentives to Stay
The survey also pointed to benefits that can be emphasized in improving the community. The abundance of sunshine, parks, outdoor recreational activities, and the city's proximity to California, Arizona, and Utah encourage people to make Las Vegas their home.
Residents are proud of the city being a top international destination, but cite the local economy's reliance on tourism as a hindrance to developing other economic sectors, which could have spurred job growth when the recession hit.
"I think that helping people connect and diversifying the economy are very critical (to keeping Las Vegans here)," Futrell said. "Making different types of jobs available to ease us through rough various patches and tough times can only help us create a sense of community over time."
Is Sustainability Important to Las Vegans?
Las Vegans want Southern Nevada to become the hub of renewable energy and green technology businesses and research and acknowledge the valley's water conservation and air quality issues need to be addressed.
However, residents are unwilling to pay higher prices or taxes to protect the environment but desire more education on environmental issues, Futrell said.
More than 75 percent of valley residents are somewhat familiar with the term sustainability, but they are unsure of what it really means. Futrell said policymakers must explain sustainability and its relationship to improving the quality of life.
"You may be more willing to pay if you know exactly what you're money is going to," he said.
About the Study
The LVMASS surveyed residents from various socioeconomic backgrounds within 664 households in 22 Clark County neighborhoods. It is the first of its kind to assess how Las Vegans feel about local economic, social, and environmental issues.
UNLV and the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition funded the LVMASS, which was administered by UNLV's Cannon Survey Center over five months in 2009.
Study participants included sociology professors Christie Batson, Barbara Brents, and Robert Futrell and graduate students Andrea Dassopoulos, Candace Griffith, Chrissy Nicholas, and Mark Salvaggio.