I could have written this article even without the supporting data, but here are the results of a Zogby poll on how Americans view Miami. I couldn't agree more with pretty much everything.
Poll: Miami Haters Don't Know The Place
By: Andres Viglucci
Herald Staff Reporter
Here in a nutshell is what most Americans think of our town, according to prominent pollster John Zogby: Miami, not so nice.
Sure, it has sun'n'fun, beaches and tourism, respondents told Zogby. But there's also lots of crime, hurricanes, public corruption, racial and ethnic tension, overpriced housing and illegal immigration, they said.
What Americans don't know about Miami may be the real news, said Zogby, who recently opened a local office of Zogby International and says he's bullish on the city.
About half the survey's respondents have never been here. Of those who have, most haven't been in the area for five years or more. In many cases, a quarter or more didn't know enough about Miami to answer a question. Very few were aware of Miami's principal cultural or entertainment events.
And they ranked illegal activities like drug trafficking and prostitution as the second most important economic sector after tourism. (Tourism is still big, of course, but far outsripped in the aggregate by professional and financial services, education, health care, transportation, trade and finance, according to various studies. As for crime, it's way, way down, and cocaine cowboys are old hat).
What all that suggests, Zogby said, is that public perceptions of the city are somewhat dated, and still shaped to a large degree by stale news and popular entertainment like Miami Vice and CSI: Miami.
''People know there is a Miami, but there is a time warp,'' Zogby said in an interview. ``We found anywhere from confusion to a lack of knowledge. It's not understood that it's a global business center, the 42nd largest metro area in the world. It just means Miami has to get its story out better.''
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who said he asked Zogby for the pro-bono survey, agreed.
''We may all think locally we've made advances, but clearly there are some issues that still linger out there, where the reality may be different, but perception remains the same,'' Diaz said. ``That's something we have to deal with.''
Still, some popular perceptions of Miami appear based on solid information -- high housing costs, for one, and the persistence of crime, which hasn't exactly gone away.
And whether accurate or not, those perceptions may have real consequences, a survey summary -- posted Thursday at www.zogby.com -- suggests.
Only 6 percent of respondents opted for Miami as a place to visit among eight major cities, including New York (17 percent), San Francisco (19 percent) and Orlando (14 percent).
Miami ranked last on the list as a place people would move to; it was chosen by just 3 percent of respondents.
About half the respondents had an unfavorable view of the city, compared to about 43 percent who were upbeat about it. Only one-third rated the quality of life here as good. And fewer than 1 in 10 rated Miami as a good place to raise a family.
But there was some gilding in the survey. About half of respondents in business regard Miami as an excellent or good place for doing business.
And 55 percent rated Miami as good or excellent for young single adults.
''Young people are enthused about Miami, which bodes well for the city,'' Diaz said.
Zogby conducted the online survey of 7,106 adults across the country both to help drum up business and as a public service. The interactive online survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points, was conducted Jan. 18-21.
''If Miami is misperceived, and leaders want to do something about that, the best place to start is with some data,'' Zogby said. ``Perhaps Miami needs some kind of rebranding -- the new Miami, the global city, where maybe people are thinking of Miami 25 years ago.''
Diaz said he will make sure that happens.
''There is definitely some strategy that will come out of this,'' Diaz said, adding that he has already met with business and civic leaders to outline the survey findings. ``I am looking for the business community to step up.''
If it happens, it would be the answer for prayers at the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's tax-funded business-development organization. Its leaders have complained about the paltry $1 million the county spends on marketing Miami as a business place, compared to $23 million in Atlanta and $10 million in Toledo, Ohio.
For one thing, Beacon Council president Frank Nero said, respondents who rated job prospects in Miami poorly seem unaware of its diversified economy and the fact that the local unemployment rate is lower than Florida's and the country's. A recent study found South Florida is home to 1,200 multinational corporations with more than $200 billion in revenue, he said.
''We have to be mindful of what the respondents are saying,'' Nero said. ``It's no wonder. People still don't know about this city.''
Frankly, South Florida promoters put way too much emphasis on fun, sun and more fun. Sure, those things are great and NEED to be advertised, but man can't live on those two things alone. It's way past time for Miami to be promoted as an international, diverse region (that's right, region) where people actually lead normal, successful lives. I know, it's hard to believe that normal people actually live here, but those who think Miami is all fluff and no stuff need to turn off the TV or take the McArthur Causeway mainland-bound every once in a while. A place where (gasp!!) many families decide to raise their children because of the diverse cultural opportunities available. A place where people attend church, enroll their kids in the Boy/Girl Scouts and Little League sports. Absolutely shocking!
Here's another shocker: Orlando has a higher crime rate than Miami, yet ranked more favorably in the poll.
The negatives should never be discounted or ignored, but neither should the positives, and neither should the fact that there are many people who actually LIKE living here. A more diverse PR campaign is needed. For example, how about promoting the Miami area as a place where more Hispanic and African-American children take college-level Advanced Placement classes in high school than any other metro area in the country? Can anyone argue the significance of that?