2014 Menino Survey of Mayors
First National Survey of Mayoral Priorities
In October of 2014, the Initiative on Cities released a ground-breaking survey of American Mayors, which has since been dedicated as the annual Menino Survey of Mayors. Based on interviews with over seventy mayors from cities with over 1 million to those with as few as 50,000 residents, it offers the first-ever nationally representative review of mayoral priorities.
Initiated in June 2014 at the bi-annual US Conference of Mayors, the project was designed to gain insight into the current policy priorities, challenges and planned political capital expenditures of sitting mayors, as well as sources of influence and inspiration. A team of Boston University researchers, including Katherine Levine Einstein and David Glick, both Assistant Professors of Political Science, and Katharine Lusk, the Executive Director of the Initiative on Cities, interviewed mayors in person, via phone and through an online survey over the course of two months.
The results are compelling. The summary report, Mayoral Policy-Making: Results from the 21st Century Mayors Survey, sheds light on the hurdles and opportunities facing not just individual elected officials but urbanized America more broadly. It highlights the importance mayors place on the physical, fiscal and social infrastructure of their cities, and – contrary to prior research – suggests that party affiliation has a significant influence on mayoral priority-setting.
View the full report via the following link:
- Chief challenges facing American mayors include physical (often aging) urban infrastructure, diminished financial resources and the need for sustainable economic growth.
- Primary mayoral policy priorities for the year ahead include economic development, quality of life concerns, such as public safety, and physical infrastructure.
- Mayors plan to invest “political capital” to realize these priorities, anticipating the need to use the bully pulpit to bring about positive change in an era of scarce resources.
- Distinct differences emerged between Democratic and Republican mayors with regard to their policy priorities, planned political capital expenditures, and views on current issues:
- Democrats are more invested in the “social infrastructure” of their cities – they are placing a greater emphasis on education, income inequality and poverty, as well as quality of life issues such as public safety, relative to their Republican peers.
- Meanwhile, Republican mayors place greater emphasis on economic development and urban infrastructure, with these two issues dominating their lists of priorities and planned political capital expenditures.
- Just over half of Democratic mayors agree that cities should play a role in reducing income inequality, even at the expense of the wealthy, compared to 9 in 10 Republicans who disagree.
- Republicans are more neutral or opposed to direct investment by cities in combating climate change, while Democrats overwhelmingly support it. Fewer than one third of Republicans are in support compared to 9/10 Democrats
- Mayors appear to be both originators and willing imitators – they often look to other cities and mayors for ideas:
- Nearly every mayor surveyed was easily able to name a policy or program idea they had taken from another city and brought to their own
- New York, Boston, Austin, Portland (OR), Philadelphia and Denver were the most frequently cited cities that mayors look to for ideas. Boston was also first or second most frequently cited by Democratic mayors, small city mayors and mayors of more affluent cities.
- Mayors report healthy working relationships with a broad array of constituencies and partners
- When asked about the quality of their relationships with a range of external partners, from unions to business leaders to higher levels of government, Mayors rated all relatively well.
- Their most cooperative relationships are with their local business community, while they report the worst relationships with their state government.
- January 27, 2015 – The Initiative on Cities hosted a Research Spotlight seminar featuring Survey co-author David Glick, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston University, and Eric Shaw, Director of Planning for the City of Washington, DC. Glick presented the highlights of the survey and participated in a moderated discussion with Shaw on the implications of the findings.
- October 13, 2014 – American City and County: The Most Influential Cities – See what cities mayors look to for inspiration and policy ideas.
- October 9, 2014 – Planetizen: Survey Illuminates American Mayors’ Priorities – Survey findings on the biggest priorities and challenges facing mayors are highlighted.
- October 9, 2014 – Boston Magazine: Boston Is One Of The Most Influential Cities In The US, According To Mayors - Article examines the cities that mayors identified as the most influential.
- October 8, 2014 – Next City: What Keeps US Mayors Awake At Night? – Review of the survey’s key findings with a particular focus on the challenges and policy priorities of surveyed mayors.
- October 7, 2014 – Denver Post: Denver’s Nation’s Fourth-Most Influential City Say Mayors - Another look at the cities and mayors identified in the survey as the most influential.
- October 7, 2014 – Washington Post: The Most Influential Cities In The Country, According To Mayors - Where to mayors look for policy ideas and leadership lessons? Our survey revealed the nation’s most influential cities.