65% of Philadelphians think the city is ‘on the wrong track,’ Lenfest survey finds

Research focused on the issues thought to be at the forefront of voters’ minds as Philadelphia prepares to elect new city leaders.

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The north facade of Philadelphia City Hall.

Philadelphia City Hall, north facade. (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

This story is a part of the Every Voice, Every Vote series.

Ask us: As Election Day draws near, what questions do you have?

Results of a new survey from the The Lenfest Institute for Journalism found Black Philadelphians are twice as likely to say gun violence has a major negative impact on their overall quality of life, compared to white residents.

The study, “What Philly Wants: The Every Voice, Every Vote Survey of Philadelphia voters,” was conducted by SSRS with additional support from the Institute for Survey Research at Temple University (ISR), ahead of May’s mayoral primary. It echoes what many have been saying for years: that Black and brown people in Philadelphia are disproportionately impacted by gun violence and violent crime.

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More than 14,000 surveys were sent to households across Philadelphia between Dec. 5, 2022 and Jan. 9, 2023. A total of 1,247 residents completed the survey, a response rate of 11.1%.

The research focused on the issues thought to be at the forefront of voters’ minds as Philadelphia prepares to elect new city leaders. Responses indicate nearly two-thirds of all residents believe the city is “pretty seriously off on the wrong track”, citing issues such as crime, education, and the local economy as primary factors.

Those most impacted by gun violence were more likely to report a poor quality of life.

Sixty-four percent of respondents reported hearing gunshots in their neighborhood in the last 12 months.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents said addressing crime in Philadelphia should be a top priority. Education trailed closely behind at 75%.

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When asked how to improve public schools in the city, the majority of respondents, 75%, said additional school supplies, technology, and internet access are needed to set Philadelphia students up for success. 73% of respondents said improvements to school infrastructure (working air conditioning, heat, water, and other basic amenities) are needed. Whereas, 66% of people called for an increase in teacher salaries.

Roughly two-thirds of all respondents listed the economy as a top priority. However, racial disparities amongst voters were prevalent, as 82% of Black respondents listed it as a top priority compared to 48% of white respondents.

Other top issues respondents noted:

  •  Affordable housing (57%)
  •  Homelessness (59%)
  •  Opioid use (55%)
  •  City services/infrastructure (51%)

More than half of the respondents, 54%, said Philadelphia is a good place to live.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said they are “absolutely certain” that they are registered to vote. However, a little less than half, 45%, said they were unsure which City Council member represents their district.

This story is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. Learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters here.

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