Houstonians held positive outlook on economy, community before COVID: Survey

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A survey of Houstonians' views on problems in their community before the COVID-19 crisis now pales in comparison to reality.

Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research released its 39th annual survey results providing a glimpse of how Houstonians viewed the community around us.

About 1,000 people in Harris County were randomly selected to interview by phone between late January and early March right before COVID-19's impact to the Bayou City.

The study found Houstonians' biggest concerns were traffic, the economy, and flooding.

One of the most notable takeaways is that a majority of Houstonians felt a deeper sense of mutual trust, empathy, and solidarity than ever before.

"Some of that, I think, is the experience of seeing each other, seeing our fellow Houstonians reaching out to help people, strangers that they didn't know of all ethnicities and saying, 'What can I do to help?' that has given us a sense of solidarity," said Dr. Stephen Klineberg, founder of the Kinder Institute of Urban Research. "That is going to be important as we come to grips together to face a series of very tough challenges."

Sixty-nine percent of respondents had a positive outlook on local job opportunities.

Nearly a third of people named traffic as Houston's biggest problem; 13% said it was the economy; 11% named flooding; another 11% said crime was the biggest problem.

Results showed substantial economic disparities with 61% of people supporting government initiatives to address economic inequality.

A quarter of people said they lack health insurance while a third struggle to pay for groceries. Klineberg said inequalities in access to healthcare and economic opportunities had "dire consequences" for black and Hispanic communities in Houston.

When it comes to diversity, the survey results showed Houstonians are in favor of policies that welcome refugees. Sixty-two percent supported adoption rights for gay parents compared to 49 percent in 2010.

"When you ask people in the privacy of their homes how do you see the world, you get a picture of much more confidence and positive feelings, and especially on issues of refugees and ethnic diversity, a city embracing who we are in the 21st century and recognizing we need to make some new kinds of investments if we're going to make sure Houston is positioned for prosperity," Klineberg said.

Fifty-five percent of people said more funding was needed to provide a quality education.

"People understand how critical education is, and we're in a new world now where you didn't need education to make money in Texas in the old days. Now we're in a new world with a source of wealth that has less to do with actual resources and more to do with human resources with knowledge and skills," Klineberg said.

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