The Saint ReportPress Release, saintblog1 Comment

Liberal and Conservative, Democrat and Republican: The Politics of ‘Not In My Back Yard’ is a ‘Rainbow Coalition’

HINGHAM, MAOctober 10, 2007Politicians are playing with fire if they buy into the common stereotype of ‘Not In My Back Yard’ voters as Starbucks-drinking, suburban, liberals.

Education and income can be indicators of how some Americans view local real estate development proposals, but opposition to hometown development projects runs across political party preference and ideology, the 2007 Saint Index nationwide survey shows.

Conducted by The Saint Consulting Group, an international land use politics consultancy, The Saint Index interviews with 1,000 American adults nationwide. 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.

Despite frequent criticism of the NIMBY attitude, the sentiment toward local development projects is increasing. Seventy-eight percent of Americans now 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.

Among the other key survey findings:

  • Hillary Clinton is a clear presidential favorite.
  • “NIMBYs” come from all walks of life.
  • Americans are far more willing to fight than support local development projects.

Solid Support for Hillary
Answering an open-ended question about which candidate they’d like to see elected president, respondents chose Senator Clinton by a margin of better than 2-1 over her nearest competition. The results:

Candidate% Preferring
Any Republican4
Any Democrat3

Patrick Fox, president of Saint Consulting Group and a veteran of numerous political campaigns, noted, “These numbers are significant because the question simply asks who voters would prefer. For Senator Clinton, it’s very good news because significantly more voters at this early stage identify her as their candidate than any other.”

“NIMBYs” Unmasked
Politically, an overwhelming 89 percent of Americans say a candidate’s position on growth is important at election time.
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.

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, with the South and Midwest more welcoming.

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.

One-quarter of Americans (24 percent) 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%).

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

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.”

Politics of Opposition
Of those people who reported opposing a development project in his or her community, they are only slightly more liberal than moderate and conservative, and they are more or less equally Democrat, Republican or Other.

The following tables illustrate the breakdown of responses according to idealism and party preference of those who have opposed development projects in his or her community.

Don’t Know1%1%1%
Party Preference
Mostly Democrat, Lean Democrat or Independent Voter in Democratic PrimaryMostly Republican, Lean Republican or Independent Voter in Republican PrimaryOther
Don’t Know1%1%1%

Further evidence suggests that Nimbys tend to be non-partisan. Let’s take a look at the percentage of each candidate’s supporters who have opposed development projects in his or her community and the political leanings of all the candidate’s supporters. While there are some seemingly significant differences between the percentages of those people opposing development projects among a few candidates, there seems to be no correlation between the percentages among all candidates or their political bases.

Presidential Preference
Who would you most like to see elected president?Percent that has opposed a development project in his/her communityDemocrat, Lean Democrat or Independent Voter in Democratic PrimaryRepublican, Lean Republican or Independent Voter in Republican Primary
Hillary Clinton21%28%76%11%
Barack Obama9%29%76%15%
Rudy Giuliani6%16%8%82%
A Republican (non-specific)4%26%0%100%
Fred Thompson3%30%3%76%
A Democrat (non-specific)3%33%0%97%
John Edwards3%27%61%19%
Mitt Romney2%30%12%82%
John McCain2%32%10%74%
Don’t know11%21%31%39%

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.’
  • Opposition to new development in their communities, by region: New England, 84 percent; West, 83 percent; Mid-Atlantic, 81 percent; South, 74 percent; Midwest, 73 percent.

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 shepherd@tscg.biz and +1 781 749 7290 ext. 7121

# # #

[Download as PDF Document]

[Back to the Press Releases home page]


  1. My experience with the continuing effort to Save Victoria Harbour confirms your findings about the “rainbow coalition” .
    I was introduced to a former NDP Premier by a former (Progressive Conservitive) mayor. Others come from all ages and experiences.. One thing I learned yesterday is that you don’t take a group of middle class and post middle age to a demonstration, you take them to a “photo shoot”..

    These are people from all over the city and region and tourists alike whose “front yard”, recreational facility and outstanding tourism values including the non motorized zone of the Victoria BC Harbour are threatened. By a developer described “mega Yacht” marina..

    Interesting reading your website provides.. especially for a guy who’s elevator line is urban planner consultant, have done everything from rezone a site for a corner store to manage the environmental assessment for the Trans Labrador Highway”..

    Tim Houlihan
    250 388 0017
    Taking 6.4 acres of shared waters from Victoria’s Harbour to moor ship sized yachts is akin to taking 6.4 acres of Beacon Hill Park, another urban gem, to put up an RV park. Would any prudent government entertain an application to do that? http://www.savevictoriaharbour.com & facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=57218582731

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *