By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly 60 percent of Americans would move from their communities right now if they could, according to a new survey by the YMCA.
But with economic and other financial considerations preventing them from doing so, nearly two-thirds said they will become more involved in their community in the coming year in hopes of improving quality of life.
"Most people, whether they like it or not, realize that community life changes, and that their communities are changing," said Neil Nicoll, CEO of the YMCA USA.
"The data show that they don't feel their communities are where they would like them to be," he added.
More than three-quarters of people said they were concerned about crime in their community, and 94 percent reported that government, social service and non-profits' budget cuts had had a negative impact on them.
"This is about jobs, about quality education, about adequate housing and health care," Nicoll said, "with the trend-line of more than half the people not going in the direction they want."
Americans were consistent across all demographic groups in their apprehension about the future, stemming from state and federal budget cuts, as well as curtailments in Medicare, school and arts programs.
But the Y Community Snapshot survey, conducted online in December among 1,000 U.S. adults nationwide, also had hopeful aspects.
"It is surprising that so many people would be willing to move if they could," Nicoll said. "But even with the uncertainty, there's a sense of hope."
He added that 81 percent said community progress can only be achieved through efforts in areas such as health care, neighbors and children.
"There's a belief that people are owning the responsibility for development of their community ... They've accepted that 'I can't do it alone, and I can't expect the government to do it,'" said Nicholl.
"There a realization that some of those (government programs) may never be what they used to be, and that it will require local initiatives to compensate."
Priorities for building and sustaining strong communities cited by some 80 percent included neighborhood upkeep, public health clinics, affordable medication, nutrition counseling and exercise, sports and recreation programs.
"It's very positive that people are not saying somebody else owns the problems. Fully half don't expect anyone to fix it but themselves," Nicoll said.
The survey was the second on community satisfaction conducted for the YMCA, a national non-profit community service organization in 10,000 communities that focuses on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney)