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Saint Index Data Shows U.S. is ‘Going NIMBY’ In Record Numbers

HINGHAM, MAOctober 10, 2007Americans love to visit casinos, but it’s the last thing they want built in their own community — and the same holds true for most other types of development.

Casinos are now tied with a landfill as the most-opposed type of local real estate project, according to the 2007 Saint Index© survey of Americans’ attitudes toward development.

Seventy-six percent of American adults oppose a casino development in their hometown, an increase from 67 percent a year ago. Casinos are also the most-opposed local land use in Canada, where 85 percent of adults say they would oppose one in their community.

It is not just casinos that suffer from America’s Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) attitude toward real estate development. Nationwide, 78 percent of Americans believe there should be no new development in their hometown, saying their community is fine the way it is or already over-developed.

Opposition to local development is up 5 percent after holding steady at 73 percent the previous two years.

The third annual Saint Index interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 Americans, age 18 and older. The Index was conducted during the third quarter of 2007, and is the first of its kind to quantify and track the politics of land use, spotlighting who actively opposes and supports real estate-related projects and why.

Among the other key survey findings:

  • Americans are far more willing to fight than support local development projects.
  • American’s explanations for opposing projects aren’t always the real reasons.
  • NIMBYism transcends political party lines.

Discontent Remains Strong for Local Development
Nearly one out of four people report actively opposing a development project in his or her community in this year’s survey, a rise from one out of five people in the 2006 survey.

When asked what retailer they’d most like to see come to their community, the overwhelming answer was “none” (24 percent) followed by “we have everything we need” (10 percent).

The Real Reasons Behind Opposition
The main reasons Americans give for opposing development in their communities are protecting community character (31 percent), protecting the environment (22 percent), and traffic (21 percent). Just 10 percent cited protecting their own real estate values — but that relatively low response may not be an accurate gauge of how big a role that factor actually plays in opposition to development.

“By probing to uncover the reasons for opposition through differently phrased questions over the years and examining the response, we’ve come to the conclusion that the real reason Americans oppose development is self-interest,” said Patrick Fox, president of The Saint Consulting Group, the international land use political consultancy that created The Saint Index. “They are protecting their own real estate values.”

Consider that the most-welcomed type of new local development, according to what Americans across the country say, is single-family housing. Eighty-three percent of people say they support single-family homes in their community.

Yet, The Saint Index found single-family housing is the very type of development Americans have most frequently opposed themselves. In fact, 53 percent of adults who have actively opposed a real estate development project opposed a single- or multi-family residential project.

“Developers have to look beyond what opponents say,” according to Fox. “Responding to the perceived concerns of residents, instead of the actual reasons for opposition, can waste an incredible amount of time, effort and expense — and ultimately doom a truly good project.”

NIMBYs Gains Momentum
So who are these people opposing development projects? Whether you call them “NIMBYs” (Not in My Backyard), “BANANAs” (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone) or CAVE persons (Citizens Against Virtually Everything), the most surprising thing about these passionate citizens is that they come from all walks of life, and are not the archetypical liberals many would assume.

The 2007 Saint Index clearly shows that “NIMBYs” tend to be non-partisan. Of those people who reported opposing a development project in his or her community, they are only slightly more liberal (28 percent) than moderate and conservative (both 22 percent), and they are more or less equally Democrat, Republican or ‘other.’

Although NIMBYs are typically non-partisan, their activity levels vary according to geography and project type. For example, the West, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are the most challenging environments for developers, regardless of project type. And, of course, building a landfill is much more challenging than building single-family housing no matter where your project is proposed. These are the types of issues that Saint Consulting has become expert in for the purpose of advising its clients and providing analyses of political dynamics surrounding development projects.

The most active “NIMBYs” among us are aged 56-65, home owners, college educated or post-graduate educated, suburbanites and have household annual incomes over $100,000.

Other Interesting Findings:

  • One-quarter of all Americans have opposed a development project, twice as many as have supported one.
  • When asked what type of new development they’d like to see in their community, one in three Americans said “none,” by far the most popular choice.
  • Seventy percent of Americans believe that the relationship between developers and officials makes the development process unfair.
  • When asked what national retailer they’d most like to see in their community, one in three Americans said ‘None’ or ‘We have everything we need’.
  • Eighty-nine percent of Americans believe a candidate’s position on growth is important at election time.
  • Twenty-four percent of Americans say they or a family member have actively opposed development. The most active among us are aged 56—65 (30%), college educated or post grad educated (29% and 30% respectively), wealthy households of over $100K (29%), suburbanite (28%), west coasters (30%) and liberal (28%).

The Saint Index was created by The Saint Consulting Group in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Economic and Civic Opinion. This year’s survey was performed by The Logit Group between the dates of August 1 and August 10, 2007. One thousand respondents were randomly selected from the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. The maximum margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval nationwide.


The Saint Consulting Group began operations in 1983 and today is the global leader in land use political consultancy. Saint has 13 offices around the US and international offices in London, England and Toronto, Canada. As experts in land use politics, Saint Consulting provides political campaign expertise to win complex or controversial planning decisions. Among the property sectors that use its services are: aggregates, food retail, shopping centres, hospitals, landfill, mixed-use developers, housing, and utilities.

The Saint Index© is the first and only annual primary research tool that quantifies and tracks the politics of land use, spotlighting who actively opposes and supports real estate projects and why.

The Saint Consulting Group is happy to run customized reports for journalists, that focus on your beat, whether your interest is specific to a region, property type, demographic or other area. Executives from The Saint Consulting Group are available for interviews, and we are happy to generate customized graphics for publication on an as-needed basis. Additional detailed information, raw data and data analysis is also available upon request, as it relates to your coverage.

For further details, see the backgrounder and contact:

US: Stephen Shepherd at and +1 781 749 7290 ext. 7121

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