Somerville, MA Happiness Survey

May 9, 2015

SOMERVILLE: A REPORT ON WELLBEING "It may seem odd for a city government to ask people how happy they are. Traditionally government just does what it does and hopes people are happy with it, or at least not actively angry.Yet what is the purpose of government if not to enhance the well-being of the public? We are public servants and we should be focused on making your life better. Our orienting values in Somerville are that we should be a great place to live, work, play and raise a family. The happiness survey is a way for us to get hard data on how well we are delivering on those values." - Mayor Joe Curtatone "The idea came from news reports of David Cameron's attempt to create a wellbeing index as well as stories of the longstanding attempt by Bhutan to track gross national happiness. Those, along with various reports and publications from academia, provided the impetus for our survey." "Somerville is the first city in the United States to survey its residents on their happiness and wellbeing. Other organizations have performed such surveys - notably Gallup Inc., and Sustainable Seattle - but ours is the first municipality to spearhead its own survey and send a copy to each household." In all, the city performed 6,167 surveys through the census mailing, 200 by phone, and 360 online. FINDINGS OF THE SURVEY • Subjective wellbeing is correlated to satisfaction with the city of Somerville • The beauty and physical setting of Somerville is a relatively important factor in how people rate their satisfaction with the city • Residents in the zero-sort pilot area were significantly happier with the city’s recycling program • People tended to rate their momentary happiness lower than their life satisfaction • The beauty and maintenance of parks played an important role in how people rated their neighborhoods. So did the quality of public schools and people’s perceptions of the police force. [verified 4/17/14]

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