The issue topped traditional public concerns such as improving local health services, public transport and the crime rate, according to a new attitude survey from the MORI Social Research Institute.
More than two in five people chose 'activities for teenagers' when asked what most needed improving in their local area, ahead of lowering the crime rate (29%), public transport (27%) and facilities for young children (25%).
And the government's national priorities of health and education scored only 16% and 7% respectively.
Crime (56%), health services (39%), affordable, decent housing (37%), shopping facilities (27%) and public transport (26%) were all considered more important.
Warren Hatter, the institute's associate director, said: 'We hope this survey will help councils focus on the issues that really matter to people. These findings show there is much more to being a successful local authority than just delivering core services.'
The findings chime with those of Ted Cantle, who was appointed by the government to investigate the causes of the riots which hit northern cities last summer (LGC, 14 December 2001).
Mr Cantle found youth services in many areas were in a 'parlous state' and recommended some aspect of youth service provision be put on a statutory basis.