Majority of Voters Distrust Developers

Patrick Slevin


(TALLAHASSEE, FLA.): There’s bad news for residential and commercial real estate developers seeking to operate in localities across America. In a recent poll commissioned by the Academy of Citizen Engagement a shocking 58 percent of voters said they distrusted real estate developers when compared to used car salesmen. The poll was conducted in one of the nation’s NIMBY (Not-In-My-Backyard) hotspots located in Central Florida.  

The poll comes on the heels of high-profile indictment of a New Jersey real estate developer for allegedly bribing U.S. Senator Bob Menendez. The corruption indictment alleges the New Jersey developer sought political favors from Sen. Menedez going back years to when he was a local mayor. 

The bad news continued for developers: When voters were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “The stereotype of greedy developers is based on the perception of them maximizing profits at the expense of the people and the environment,” a whopping 70 percent agreed with the statement. Yet when asked if they considered themselves pro-growth or anti-growth, 57 percent considered themselves pro-growth. Even then, the majority of pro-growth voters still didn’t trust real estate developers and perceived them as greedy.  

“Not-In-My-Backyard in America manifests itself daily across the United States. We conducted a first-of-its-kind comprehensive poll in one of the nation’s NIMBY hotspots, and the research findings were shocking, revealing, as well as encouraging,” said Patrick Slevin, Founder of the Academy of Citizen Engagement. “The reality is that developers have a huge trust problem with not only anti-growth opponents, but with the ‘silent majority’ that sees itself as pro-growth. This study on NIMBYism is quantitative data that can be extrapolated and used to confidently engage local stakeholders,” said Slevin.

The research revealed challenges for developers tasked with earning the license to operate for their real estate projects:

  • 64 percent of voters surveyed believed the notice and hearing process favored developers at the expense of the community; 
  • When asked what would cause voters to act and oppose a project, 34 percent said elected officials were too easily lobbied by developers, closely followed by 32 percent saying developers didn’t care about their community;
  • 23 percent believed developers “fly under the radar” because they feared community input would reduce their profits. Interestingly, another 27 percent answered “all the above” to fear of the community, developers didn’t care, elected officials were easily lobbied, and developers’ arrogance as other reasons for their lack of transparency. 

This first-of-its-kind poll reveals the perspectives of 400 registered Florida voters in Lake County, Florida, considered the NIMBY hotspot of the Greater Orlando Metropolitan area. The poll was commissioned by the Academy of Citizen Engagement in partnership with the National Survey Research Group

The NIMBY polling offered encouraging solutions for smart developers who wanted to successfully mitigate and overcome NIMBY opposition:  

  • Nearly 77 percent of voters were more inclined to trust developers if they were transparent and engaged the community to find a win-win consensus;
  • Nearly 40 percent of voters thought a scientific poll demonstrating majority support for their project would make them more likely to support the project compared to 25 percent said no difference and 22 percent less likely;
  • A solid 37 percent of voters said they would support a controversial project opposed by a small group if it brought in new jobs and increased their property values with an added 34 percent who said it depends on the project.

“The research tells us that developers who decide to “fly under the radar” can easily trigger negative perceptions and fan the flames of NIMBY opposition,” said Bill Lee, Co-Founder of the National Survey Research Group. “However, there’s good news for smart developers who want to earn support from local stakeholders. The data clearly suggests a pre-emptive, purposeful citizen engagement initiative can earn that trust of stakeholders and make the difference in securing social support, while achieving political approvals for their projects.” 

Academy of Citizen Engagement (A.C.E.) was founded in 2023 by Patrick Slevin a former Florida mayor, NIMBY speaker, and two-time Amazon bestselling NIMBY author. The vision of A.C.E. is to create a community of real estate development leaders, land-use executives, elected officials, and public affairs professionals looking for better better practices to earn the community’s license to operate in the traditional and digital public squares. Slevin heads his national public affairs consulting firm SL7 Consulting based in Tallahassee, Florida.  Learn more about A.C.E. at  

National Survey Research Group (NSRG) was founded by Bill Lee and Barry Zeplowitz. Together, they bring over 65 years of quantitative research experience and knowledge. NSRG uses proprietary computer software to process and analyze its data. Learn more about NSRG at

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