U-M conducts city-wide survey of Detroit to discover what matters to residents

A good deal of reporting about Detroit takes the perspective of an individual and extrapolates that as representative of the city at large. But what do Detroiters really think about the impact of investments, the state of transportation and public safety, and much more?

That's what the University of Michigan, with support from the Knight Foundation, sought to learn with the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), a city-wide survey that's actually representative of the demographics and geography of Detroit. 

Researchers asked nearly 1,000 Detroiters a variety of questions and came away with some interesting findings. For example, even among Detroit homeowners whose property value has increased, a majority feel conflicted about the city's housing market. Or that while 63 percent of respondents felt that race relations are "very bad or somewhat bad" in the U.S., only 15 percent felt that way about their own neighborhood. 39 percent felt "very good or somewhat good" about race relations in their neighborhood.

The hope is that these findings will drive public policy and other local decisions. All the information and methodology from the surveys will be publicly available. 

"Credible and reliable public opinion information is essential to local decision-making that reflects community needs," said Katy Locker, Knight Foundation program director for Detroit, in a press release. "This effort will provide leaders with a view into what people value in their communities, opening avenues to build consensus, spark democratic engagement, and ensure that all resident voices get fair representation in public debates."

The DMACS survey is still ongoing. Nine more will follow over the next three years with more respondents, refined questions, and hopefully deeper findings. 
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Aaron Mondry is a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.