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 to 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.

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Initiated in June 2014 at the biannual 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, shed light on the hurdles and opportunities facing individual elected officials and urbanized America more broadly. It highlights the importance that mayors place on their cities’ physical, fiscal and social infrastructure and – contrary to prior research – suggests that party affiliation significantly influences mayoral priority-setting.

View the full report via the following link:

BUIOC_Mayors Leadership Survey_2014

Key Findings:

  • 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 the quality of life issues such as public safety, relative to their Republican peers.
    • Meanwhile, Republican mayors emphasize economic development and urban infrastructure, with these two issues dominating their 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 quickly 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.
    • Mayors rated all relatively well when asked about the quality of their relationships with a range of external partners, from unions to business leaders to higher levels of government.
    • Their most cooperative relationships are with their local business community, while they report the worst relationships with their state government.