Remember that slogan about Philadelphia being better if you spend the night?

Suburbanites would disagree.

According to a new Pew Charitable Trusts poll, many residents of the Philadelphia suburbs think the city is a nice place to visit, but they don't want to live there.

Aside from that, the survey of 801 people from seven suburban counties - Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester - found mostly positive views of the nation's sixth-largest city.

Suburban residents reported seeing a strong link between Philadelphia's future and that of their own communities, and a majority say the city is headed in the right direction. Overwhelmingly, suburbanites think the city will improve in the next five years.

Even more respondents, 81 percent, gave the city high marks as a place to visit, citing its historical sites and landmarks, arts and culture, spectator sports, food and restaurants, and shopping.

"To know the city is to like it," said Larry Eichel, project director of Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative.

But that's where the lovefest ends.

Only 39 percent rated Philadelphia a good or excellent place to live, while 56 percent ranked it fair or poor. Fewer than half said they would recommend a move to someone thinking of relocating to the city. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

David Elesh, an associate professor of urban sociology at Temple University, said he expected that number would rise as more suburbanites traded in their two-story colonials for city townhouses or condos. In fact, the city's growth since 2003 is partly the result of "suburbanites who'd rather live in the city."

"This is not something that is at all characteristic of Philadelphia," he said. "We're seeing this in all big cities."

While many of those shedding the McMansions may be baby boomers, younger people increasingly are moving into city digs as well, and Philadelphia "has been more successful at keeping these people than they have in the past," Elesh added.

Even urban universities such as Temple, New York University, and Columbia have seen applications grow faster than suburban colleges, Elesh said.

A new survey from the nonprofit Campus Philly found that more nonnative college graduates are remaining in the area after finishing school.

What suburbanites think about the city is important, Eichel said, because they are customers for its attractions, many work there, and their attitudes can influence how suburban political leaders feel about working with city leaders.

The Pew poll noted that the wealthy, the young, and commuters gave the city higher ratings, while low-income suburbanites, the elderly, and those who rarely or never visit had more negative feelings.

Those with frequent contact with the city were more likely to have a positive impression.

That may be because people who shun the city "are reliant on what the media presents," Elesh said. "Anyone who watches the 11 o'clock news - where if it bleeds, it leads - is going to get a very different impression of the city."

Asked to name the best thing about living near Philadelphia, respondents cited entertainment, culture, restaurants, history, and sports. Asked the worst thing, crime, traffic, and congestion got the most mentions.

Despite the good feelings, suburban residents expressed less pride in being identified with Philadelphia than in past surveys. Sixty percent said they were very proud to be associated with the city, compared with an average of 69 percent between 1998 and 2000. They also reported coming to the city less often - 42 percent visited more than once a month, compared with an average of 48 percent a decade ago.

Bill Clinton, an Upper Providence councilman and a member of the First Suburbs Project, said he was not surprised by the findings but disagreed with them.

"I think Philadelphia is a very exciting place to live. I have a daughter who lives there and know others that are retiring and moving into the city," he said, adding that he had not relocated because was committed to his community and working to improve the entire region through First Suburbs, which aims to revitalize inner-ring and older towns.

"We're a metropolitan region, and we cannot succeed without a vibrant core," Clinton said.

Contact staff writer Kathy Boccella at kboccella@phillynews.com or 610-313-8123.