Voters politicize real estate development at the polls, Saint Index survey shows

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the-saint-indexDevelopment and growth is an important issue for American voters when they go to the polls.

Eighty-nine percent of Americans say a candidate’s position on development and growth is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ when considering candidates for county and local office, according to The Saint Index, a national survey of American public attitudes that has become the annual measure of the politics of land use development.

By region, development and growth is held most important local as an election issue in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, with 92 percent of voters there saying a candidate’s position on development is important or very important.

The depth of feeling is strongest in the West, where 64 percent rated a candidate’s position on growth “very important.” Even in the South and Midwest, where opposition to development projects is lowest, 87 and 86 percent, respectively, say a candidate’s position is important or very important.

Rural voters feel most strongly, with 60 percent calling a candidate’s position on development “very important.” Fifty-three percent of suburbanites consider the issue “very important.”

Forty-nine percent of urban voters said a candidate’s position on development and growth is “very important” in deciding for whom to vote.

These findings, from the third annual Saint Index nationwide survey of 1,000 adults, underscore the politicization of the development process in America.

Americans hold local officials responsible for what happens: 83 percent say their city or town governments are responsible for regulating what can be built locally.

So, local elections are being won and lost on development issues across the country – in cities, suburbs and the rural countryside. It’s something recognized by both politicians and sophisticated citizens who try to influence decisions on controversial projects.

This politicization of real estate permitting is also infusing the approval process with the personal attacks, negativity and cynicism that typify American politics in general.

Seventy percent of Americans said the relationship between developers and officials makes the development process unfair, according to the Saint Index.

It’s not just about the benefits or the quality of a project once the political games begin.

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