The survey explores a wide range of leadership and policy issues using a mix of closed-ended and open-ended questions. The mayors provided information about their views on everything from career ambitions to tackling poverty to federal agencies.
In total, 465 mayors representing all U.S. cities with over 75,000 residents were invited to participate in the 2016 Menino Survey of Mayors. Mayors received personalized email invitations from the Director of the Boston University Initiative on Cities with follow-up requests by telephone.
Who are the mayors? Demographics of participating cities
Hailing from 41 states, the 102 mayors who participated in the survey represent cities that are largely similar to those in the nation as a whole. Participating cities skewed larger, with an average size of approximately 262,000 residents. The average U.S. city with over 75,000 residents has 223,000 residents. Consistent with a slight skew toward larger cities, participating cities also tended to be somewhat poorer with slightly different racial demographics. The sample cities generally reflect the geographic distribution of U.S. cities with over 75,000 residents (16 percent Northeast, 32 percent South, 25 percent Midwest, and 28 percent West in the sample compared to 11 percent, 33 percent, 17 percent, and 40 percent overall, respectively). The combination of the slight skew toward larger cities and away from the Western cities suggests that relatively large suburban communities common in the West, often with city manager systems, are slightly underrepresented. Forty-two percent of participating cities have strong mayor systems compared to 36 percent in the target population. Therefore, to the extent the sample skews at all, it skews toward policymaking cities with active mayors. Moreover, because the survey covers such a wide array of topics, the authors are not concerned about mayors selecting into the survey based on particular substantive issues or concerns, which would bias the results. Mayors were invited to a survey about policy and city leadership, leaving them unable to opt in or out with knowledge of the substance.
Prior iterations of the Menino Survey of Mayors suggest that the skew toward large cities may exist because of city staffing issues. Large cities frequently have more structured and hierarchical staff, which often includes an employee whose job focuses exclusively on scheduling. Thus, while mayors of larger cities typically have greater responsibilities, their schedules are more routinized, making it easier to schedule interviews.
Participating mayors hail from a wide variety of backgrounds. Around one-quarter are female and 80 percent are white. Seventy percent are Democrats and 28 percent are Republicans. This partisan distribution is virtually identical to that reported in a rigorous political science study of mayoral partisanship. Interestingly, almost two-thirds of mayors who contributed to the survey have backgrounds in business, while one-third have backgrounds in law, suggesting they bring diverse professional experiences to their time in the mayor’s office.