Swimming Pool, Rodents: Survey Shines Light on Public Opinions

A citizen survey reveals Royal Oak residents' top priorities.

And the survey says: 95 percent of residents are satisfied or very satisfied with Royal Oak as a place to live.

In a public opinion survey conducted in the late summer/early fall, residents say they are happy with the city and services provided by local government - but some would also like an indoor swimming pool and less rats.

Spearheaded by the city manager’s office, a survey taking approximately six weeks to complete was conducted by Oakland University's Public Affairs Research Laboratory (PARL). Sent out to 800 randomly selected Royal Oak residences from voter registration rolls in mid-August, the results of the survey show Royal Oak residents are very pleased with the quality of life in the city and the services/amenities provided to residents.

While PARL was disappointed with a 34 percent response rate – the lowest rate it ever obtained in more than two decades administering surveys - the results were encouraging to city leaders.  The results, which show citizens’ satisfaction of Royal Oak as a community, will be useful to define how the city can work to brand itself and improve results for the future.

"The main purpose of any survey project is to engage your residents. It's about good government. It's about speaking to the people you represent and seeing what's on their minds," said Dr. Pat Piskulich, director of the Public Affairs Research Laboratory.

A survey is a two-way street, Piskulich said. It tells citizens what city leaders are thinking about and elicits responses.

The Public Opinion Survey report is available for review in its entirety as a PDF document attached to this story.

The following are some statistical highlights of the survey.

Police, Fire and EMS Service

With approximately one in five residents reporting to have dialed 911 during the past year, satisfaction with the city’s dispatch system is quite high (88 percent), according to the report.

Of the Royal Oak Police department, 78 percent of those surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied. The majority say the department is respectful, friendly, helpful and professional.

Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said they are satisfied with the Royal Oak Fire Department and 71 percent with EMS.


A strong majority of respondents (72 percent) are willing to call major streets in the city good or excellent, according to the report. However, when asked to rate the streets in their neighborhoods the figure dropped to 56 percent.

Residents approved the city’s handling of snow and ice removal (71 percent) and 73 percent say traffic is not a problem for the city.

Parks & Recreation

During the past year the majority of those surveyed say they used a city park or recreational facility or attended a city-sponsored community event.

When asked what three additional indoor recreation facilities are most needed in the city, a swimming pool (47 percent), fitness center (40 percent) and walking/running track (38 percent) are the top requests. Outdoor recreation facilities residents say they want include bicycle/non-motorized paths (38 percent), jogging/exercise trail (36 percent) and swimming pool (33 percent).


Rodents, declining city revenues and crime topped the list of the most serious problems facing the city, while police/crime control, fire prevention/suppression and ambulance service were the services residents say should be the top priorities of city officials.

Branding & downtown 

The things that bring people to downtown Royal Oak, according to the survey, are restaurants (70 percent), walkability (38 percent), special events (26 percent) and entertainment (25 percent).

When describing Royal Oak, residents use words such as safe, diverse, fun, vibrant, trendy and neighborhoods.

How accurate is the survey?

Due to the low response rate, which PARL suspects may have been caused by “a long and heated campaign season in a presidential election year,” the margin of error is plus or minus 6 percent, according to the report.

As a yardstick, the report predicted the city’s public safety millage would pass by a 71-29 percent margin; the actual result was 67-33 percent, within the expected parameters, the report said.

What do you think of the survey's results? Do the respondents have the same priorities as you?

Judy Davids November 28, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Duke! Er, Your Highness. I am so sorry but I accidentally deleted some comments, including yours. Feel free to repost. Again, sorry.
Ellen Marie November 28, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Well the survey certainly got the public survey safety millage correct. The report predicted the city’s public safety millage would pass by a 71-29 percent margin; the actual result was 67-33 percent. That is pretty darn close! If you just followed ONLINE comments you would have expected the opposite results. So let's give PARL some credit here. It seems to me they know what they are doing.
John Davids November 28, 2012 at 07:48 PM
The pools at the High School and Dondero are competition pools, very different than a family pool intended for leisure or "fun" swimming. Competition pools need to be kept relatively cool (79 to 81 degrees typically) because warmer water is not conducive to hard training. Family pools are typically kept at 84 to 86 degrees, otherwise young children and older adults tend to turn blue in short order. Varying the temperature in the competitive pool to accommodate leisure use is not feasible when the pool is being used for competition or training- it takes too long to change the temperature in such a large body of water, and would be very expensive re-heating the water to that extent. The other difference is that family pools contain very shallow water for play, zero depth entries to allow access for all and some combination of slides, sprays, interactive features to engage kids in play activities.
John Davids November 28, 2012 at 08:21 PM
The pools at the Middle School and High School are competition pools, which are a completely different animal than a "family" or "leisure" pool. One major difference is water temperature- those pools need to be kept relatively cool (typically 79 to 81 degrees). The water needs to be this cool to enable hard training and competitive swimming. Those temperatures turn young children and older adults blue in short order, they really need water temps in the 84 to 86 degree range. The other main difference is that a family pool needs to have a great deal of very shallow water, from zero to 42" in order to provide safe play areas for smaller children. Family pools also typically include play elements such as water slides, sprays and interactive water toys to engage children in play activities. If you aren't familiar with these types of facilities you should visit one in the area, they really are pretty amazing places.
Ellen B December 02, 2013 at 08:45 AM
A link to the survey was made public, I remember taking it so I probably read about it on Patch. I think an outdoor play pool would be a fantastic addition to our city. I have paid to go to Troy's pool, Oak Park's pool and the Warren pool many times, I would much rather spend the money closer to home. Also, I've lived in RO for 15 years and have never seen a rat.


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