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Survey Says: Airbnb Is Great! (Until the Neighbors Start Doing It)

The “not in my backyard” crowd has a thing or two to say to their room-renting neighbors.

image via (cc) flickr user rytc

When it comes to Airbnb, the room-rental hotel alternative, a new survey by travel industry website Skift shows that Americans are, by and large, fans of the service. That is, with one notable exception. A considerable portion of people in favor of renting out rooms to strangers are decidedly less enthusiastic when the room in question is in their own neighborhood.

Skift, using Google Consumer surveys (methodology here) administered two surveys to over one thousand internet users in the final week of December, 2014. The surveys were nearly identical, save for a change in the keystone question. One survey asked:

“Should anyone be permitted to rent rooms in their homes for a few days at a time to strangers, similar to a hotel?”

The other was slightly more specific, asking:

“Should your neighbors be permitted to rent rooms in their homes for a few days at a time to strangers, similar to a hotel?”

While the percentages of respondents who felt that either the practice should be regulated, or didn’t express an opinion one way or another held steady in both cases, results for those who either fully supported the company, or wanted it banned entirely, saw a noticeable shift.

In the abstract, more than a quarter of respondents voiced unmitigated support for room rentals:

via skift / Google consumer survey

But, once respondents were put in hypothetical proximity to an room rental, that number dropped to barely over 17 percent:

image via skift / Google consumer survey

Of course, the further into the data one drills, the more nuanced, and interesting the results become. For example, Skift found that suburban respondents, who were more inclined to oppose room rentals in the abstract “anyone” question, doubled their opposition when faced with the “your neighbor” specific scenario. Factors such as gender and age also played a role. Even a person’s income, and whether or not a they had children seemed to affect how they felt about room rentals. The full data set (which admittedly, as an online survey, is probably more of a nicely textured indicator than a perfectly balanced snapshot) is well worth sifting through.

Ultimately, this all seems similar to the ”not in my back yard” incongruities often found in regards to construction or land development. Now, though, the friction between agreeing in principal, and having reservations in the abstract, seems to be appearing in the rapidly growing sharing economy, as well.

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