Crime and Immigration Worry Houstonians

Houstonian's concerns about crime and immigration are on the rise. The annual Houston Area Survey also shows people's desire for a cleaner environment and better healthcare coverage. But as Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports, putting people's opinions into policy is another matter.

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The Houston Area Survey by Rice University Sociology Professor Stephen Klineberg has been taking the pulse of the city since 1982. The 2005 survey showed great optimism for immigration and diversity in Houston. Klineberg says the optimism has eroded over the last two years.

"I think Katrina was a trigger for Houston, but you're absolutely right it's tied into a broader debate that's going on, deep political divisions on immigration. What's interesting there is that people are worried about immigration, illegal immigration especially, they see it not so much a pressure on jobs so much, not on crime, but pressure on public services."

While the 2005 survey showed 97 percent favorable feelings toward Houston's response to Katrina, this year's survey showed nearly 65 percent believe Katrina's impact has been negative for the city. On other issues, the survey found Houstonians in favor of helping the poor, providing better health insurance coverage.

"A question we've asked for 25 years is do you think we are spending too much, too little or about the right amount to improve the conditions of the poor. And the percent saying we're spending too little on efforts to improve the conditions of the poor rose to 72 percent of all Houstonians, that's higher than at any time."

The survey also covered questions about the environment. Klineberg says clean air for those who answered the questions.

"When you push them and say wait a minute you're going to pay higher electricity bills, yes, we've got to do that. Wait a minute, it's going to mean more stringent regulations and we don't like government regulations, yes, we've got to do it, the environment has got to be protected. There's a striking clarity out there. So the challenge is not getting the public to endorse these issues, the challenge is getting the politicians... make the hard decisions."

Greater Houston Partnership Business Development Senior Vice President Miguel San Juan...

"I feel very optimistic about the fact that we can address those issues that Dr. Klineberg stated today that needed to be addressed if we're going to grow in the future."

The complete Houston Area Survey can be found on-line at KUHF-dot-org.Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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