Most Binghamton residents would say that the glass is half empty — and they aren’t interested in refills — according to a recent survey that has generated some skepticism.
A poll published by Gallup on March 13 ranks Binghamton as the least optimistic metropolitan region in the nation.
Gallup surveyed a random sample of residents in 190 U.S. metropolitan areas, and found that residents of the Binghamton metropolitan area were the least likely to say that their city or area is becoming a better place to live, with only 27.8 percent of residents reporting optimism.
Gallup found that among that same sample of Binghamton residents, 74.9 percent reported they were satisfied with the city or area they lived, the fourth-lowest ranking among polled areas.
According to the polling organization’s website, 353,492 respondents aged 18 and older were contacted by both landline and cell phone from January to December 2011 and asked to comment on their perceived level of community satisfaction and optimism on a daily basis. The exact number of Binghamton residents polled was not disclosed.
“Binghamton is definitely depressed — the weather, the economy is depressed, and the infrastructure of the city is falling apart,” said Mikey Boyd, a junior majoring in sociology. “The whole area just looks like it’s not doing well.”
Gallup uses a pre-established scale, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, to measure satisfaction and optimism among metropolitan regions nationwide.
Gallup’s website claims the results do not necessarily paint a clear picture of what makes a metro area optimistic. It states that data suggest there is “likely a combination of factors that can create optimism about a community.”
Binghamton community leaders said the poll was not a clear depiction of the state of Binghamton’s development.
Joel Boyd, assistant director of Binghamton’s Economic Development, said he is not pleased with the results of the poll.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and things just keep getting better,” Boyd said.
Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan said he is interested to know who the pollsters were speaking with when they conducted their research.
“First of all, I’m a little upset that the results were published the way that they were in the Press & Sun-Bulletin, because this is a city — really a metro region — that covers two counties, Broome and Tioga,” Ryan said. “ I’d love to see how many people in the survey actually reside in Binghamton.”
The population in the Downtown Binghamton region has nearly tripled over the last few years, according to Ryan. He said it’s not just the students who have made Downtown a more desirable place to live.
“Certainly people have been fighting a negative outlook that is held by a lot of people, but we are trying to change that by showing people what we have to offer,” Ryan said. “I’m curious to know whether these people who were polled go Downtown anymore. Do they ever go out and walk on the Court Street Bridge? Go to restaurants? Parades?”
Boyd said that despite the survey’s results, there are a lot of great things taking place in the city.
“There’s been an influx of small businesses Downtown, and events like Restaurant Week get bigger and better every year. We also have our 50th annual July Fest this year, featuring a jazz festival, and the Court Street gateway project,” Boyd said. “People are trying to make a life here. We can’t just get brought down by a few naysayers.”
Ryan said he believes that city officials have been proactive about investing in the city’s future.
“We’re making investments,” Ryan said. “A lot of people are way optimistic about the future. I really think our partnership with BU is going to move the community toward more opportunities for innovative high-tech jobs, energy efficiency — this will all take time to play out, but when you look at our plans with the University, how can you not be positive?”
Terence Kane, Binghamton University’s assistant vice president for government relations, is a Southern Tier resident who disagrees with the results of the survey.
“I have made the choice to live here because of the beauty of the land, the available opportunities for success and the preserved sense of community that I find abundant,” Kane said. “It’s not perfect and we have room to improve — but what community doesn’t. I believe that we can make our future whatever we believe that it can become. As for the survey, I must not have been home when the survey folks called as they would have gotten a very different opinion!”
Gallup Poll also ranked Binghamton, N.Y., as the second-most obese metropolitan region in the country. Other reports have suggested that Binghamton is among the most depressed and cloudy cities as well.
Chelsie Kupst, a junior engineering student, said she worries the survey results will cause people to have a negative perception of the area, but she is optimistic about Binghamton’s future.
“I think we can turn it around,” Kupst said. “I think with BU being here, all of the new students coming in and University growth will definitely help the local economy.”
Tommy McDonald, a senior double-majoring in human development and economics, said there is more to Binghamton than the surveys suggest.
“I think it’s unfortunate because it’s very obvious how many people are pessimistic, but I feel like there’s hope in changing this view as we’ve seen with how the University, the community, all the students help one another during the time of need, during the flood,” McDonald said.
Ryan said that while all of the city’s beautification initiatives would not be completed overnight, he hopes that when residents return after being away for awhile they will be able to see the city’s progress.
“The September flood didn’t help, but I think there’s more,” Ryan said. “A lot of people are retired or stay home, and are caught up in the nostalgia of the IBM era. We have to move on from that. Lots of people realize that and are optimistic about the direction we’re headed.”
BU President Harvey Stenger is also optimistic about his new home.
“As I make the rounds and meet local leaders, it is my opinion that this community has a lot going for it,” Stenger said. “It possesses a rich history of innovation and entrepreneurship, and has a great University that has the potential and optimism to make a positive difference in the region, the state and the nation. I am passionately positive about our future.”