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City Announces Poll Results

Author: Tim Boyle, Issue: September 2006, Topic: Tsukuba City

During the month of March, the city of Tsukuba randomly selected 4000 citizens over the age of 20 and mailed them a questionnaire asking how they viewed the importance of a variety of topics as well as their degree of satisfaction concerning them. 1495 people (37.4%) returned the surveys, which is a fairly high rate of response. The results were tabulated and presented as the cover article in the 9/1 issue of "Kouhou Tsukuba", the twice per month newsletter put out by the city.

The citizens were asked to rate their view of importance on a scale of 5, with 1 being of "no importance" up to 5 being "important". Likewise, the degree of satisfaction was similarly rated. With respect to degree of satisfaction, it is not surprising that the item with the lowest value for degree of satisfaction was the bus system. The item with the lowest rating of importance was "river/shoreline maintenance", which makes sense given the lack of significant shorelines to maintain within the boundaries of Tsukuba.

What was surprising and perhaps a bit disappointing was the item that came in second lowest on the importance scale. It was that good old "Kokusai Koryu" (international exchange) that receives so much lip service in this "international city". Hmmmm!!! So, how are we to interpret this tidbit of information? First of all, it's important to note that the average of the responses on this item was 3.9, which still puts it almost to the level of 4 — the value for "relatively important". In other words, none of the 53 categories had an average importance value below 3. Even the "river/shoreline maintenance" was almost 3.8. The average value for all 53 categories together was 4.35, and so that is not a huge difference. (People tended to list almost everything as "important.") Also, if we take into consideration that a fairly high proportion of the respondents live in outlying areas of Tsukuba with little or no contact with the foreign community, then perhaps the relatively low value is not surprising.

When it comes to degree of satisfaction concerning each of the items, the overall average was 2.91, meaning that the respondents were on average slightly dissatisfied with "life in Tsukuba." The bus system was evaluated at only 2.3 on the scale and was followed close behind by the availability of parking places. The worst 5 slots were filled out with the following 3 categories: "environmental protection of water cleanliness", "crime prevention" and "garbage reduction and recycling." These last three were also near the top of the list in importance.

On the opposite end of the scale, the 5 categories that rated the highest degree of satisfaction were: "sewer system", "parks and green spaces", "city water system", "information from city hall", and "relaxing landscaping." That last one is a bit difficult to translate ("Uruoi to yasuragi no aru keikan dzukuri"), which literally means "not drab (is there a good word for that?) and calm scenery making", or something like that. That's vague enough to warrant a pretty high degree of satisfaction (even if my translation doesn't!).

Not surprisingly, the highest item on the scale of importance was "medical facilities." This was closely followed by "environmental protection of water cleanliness", "damage prevention during natural disasters", "garbage reduction and recycling" and "city planning designed to make life easier for the elderly."

A major purpose behind the taking of this poll was to help prioritize efforts by the city to improve city life. By combining both the degree of perceived importance together with the level of satisfaction, they developed a list of the "top ten" of highest importance, lowest satisfaction. Number one on the list was "environmental protection of water cleanliness." One drink out of the tap will convince most newcomers that that is a pretty good choice — even though I would imagine that many people from other countries probably think it's not all that bad compared with what comes out of the tap at home.

The rest of the "top ten list" (not nearly as funny but perhaps more comprehensible that David Letterman's) is as follows: 2. "garbage reduction and recycling", 3. "crime prevention", 4. "parking availability", 5. "bus system", 6. "prevention of traffic accidents", 7. "improving school education", 8. "pollution prevention", 9. "city planning designed to make life easier for the elderly", and 10. "damage prevention during natural disasters."

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