Harrisburg (PA) – Voters in Philadelphia want City Hall to pay more attention to neighborhood problems while at the same time continuing the economic development projects which attract jobs and tourists to the city.
As Philadelphians prepare to elect a new mayor this November, a recent Lincoln Institute Pulse Poll found growing concern over personal safety – with 44% saying they feel less secure in their own homes than they did a year ago – and voters are anxious for solutions to the city’s educational and economic woes.
“The next Mayor of Philadelphia will have to walk a tightrope between continuing the rejuvenation of center city begun by Mayor Ed Rendell and coming to grips with neighborhood problems – particularly crime and drugs,” said Lowman Henry, Chairman of the Lincoln Institute. “Voters feel strongly that their neighborhoods have been neglected, yet at the same time they ascribe a high degree of importance to economic development and the promotion of tourism.”
Two thirds of the city’s voters (66%) said they do not feel the right balance has been struck between improving center city and improving neighborhoods. Those voters were nearly unanimous in saying too much emphasis had been placed on center city. Just 28% said the current administration had struck the right balance of working to improve center city and the neighborhoods.
A total of 88% feel re-development of the Philadelphia shipyard is important to the future of the city’s economy (58% Very Important, 29% Somewhat Important). Efforts to bolster tourism were viewed as even more critical — 91% said tourism promotion is vital for the city’s future economic well being.
New stadiums for pro football’s Eagles and pro baseball’s Phillies are in the offing for Philadelphia. In the current debate over where to site the new baseball stadium, the Pulse Poll found voters supporting a South Philadelphia site over a center city location. Forty-three percent said the Phillies’ new stadium should be near its present home, while 21% said the baseball team should move into center city. Nearly a quarter of the electorate (24%) felt there was no need for a new stadium.
Many Philadelphia residents still do not feel safe in their own neighborhoods. An overall plurality, 44%, said they currently feel less safe in their neighborhood than they did a year ago. Safety is a particular concern of Republican voters, 60% of who said they felt less safe than a year ago; female voters (50%) felt less safe; and older voters (57% of voters aged 55-64 and 44% of voters over the age of 65) felt less safe. Concerns over personal safety cross racial lines. Forty-six percent of white voters and 42% of black voters felt less safe in their neighborhood than they did a year ago.
Drugs continue to be a problem in many Philadelphia neighborhoods. Fifty-seven percent cited drugs as a problem in their neighborhood. More Democrats (60%) than Republicans (46%) cited drug concerns. Drugs also are a bigger issue among black voters, 77%of whom said they had a drug problem in their neighborhood compared to 48% of whites who express concern over the issue.
Despite concerns over crime and personal safety, Philadelphia voters gave high marks to the city’s police department. Sixty-five percent of those polled said the Philadelphia Police Department is on the right track when it comes to combating crime in their neighborhood. Twenty-seven percent felt the police were on the wrong track and 8% offered no opinion.
Support for the police department runs stronger among white voters (70%) than among blacks (57%), while both Republicans (64%) and Democrats (65%) feel the Philadelphia Police Department is on the right track.