Developers are twice as likely to find local opinion opposed to their real estate development than in support of it, according to a new survey of American attitudes about land use.

Traffic and quality-of-life issues top the list of reasons people oppose real estate developments, according to The Saint Index, a recent survey conducted by the Center for Economic and Civic Opinion at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

Despite that opposition, single-family housing developers have a leg up on other real estate developers. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents support single-family housing development, compared to 63% who support grocery store development.

Other highlights of the survey’s results:

  • About 73% of Americans like their community the way it is or even believe it is already over-developed.
  • About 83% of suburbanites do not want any new development in their communities.
  • One in five American families have actively opposed new developments by forming neighborhood groups, calling or writing elected officials, signing or disseminating petitions, attending and speaking out at local hearings, fundraising, or hiring attorneys or engineering experts.
  • More than 60% of respondents gave their local governments fair or poor ratings on planning and zoning issues, and 70% believe the development process is unfair because of relationships between elected officials and developers.
  • The degree of importance voters place on a political candidate’s position on growth issues increases with the age of the voter.
  • Opposition to the recent Supreme Court eminent domain case Kelo v. New London has grown. The case, which allows a community to use its powers of eminent domain for the taking of private property for private use, was opposed by 81% of respondents in November, up from 68% in July 2005.

The Saint Index was conducted for The Saint Consulting Group. The survey of 1,000 adults was undertaken so developers could “understand from where their active opposition is coming, and what they can do to get more projects approved,” said Fox. He said the new annual survey was also done for policy makers and urban planning officials who want to design smart-growth policies “that meet the needs of their constituents and the economic development needs of their communities.”

Fox said he was surprised at how sophisticated Americans are in planning and zoning issues, especially in the 20% of families that have actively opposed developments.