Most Houstonians believe more regulation would have ‘significantly reduced’ Harvey damage

Style Magazine Newswire | 4/23/2018, 1:12 p.m.
Rice U.’s 2018 Kinder Houston Area Survey reveals that residents continue to say traffic is still area’s biggest problem and …

HOUSTON – (April 23, 2018) – More than 40 percent of Houstonians surveyed in the 2018 Kinder Houston Area Survey were directly impacted in some way by Hurricane Harvey, and two-thirds of survey respondents believe that more stringent regulations on development would have significantly reduced the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. The 37th annual survey also revealed that respondents believe traffic is still the area’s biggest problem and that significantly more money is needed for public education.

Rice University Sociology Professor Stephen Klineberg, founding director of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, conducted the survey and will release the findings today at the annual Kinder Institute Luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston. Angela Blanchard, president emerita of BakerRipley, a community development non-profit organization connecting hardworking families and individuals to opportunities that support their educational, financial and civic aspirations will be this year’s recipient of the Stephen L. Klineberg Award, which recognizes an individual who has made a lasting positive impact on Greater Houston.

Hurricane Harvey

When respondents from three counties (Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery) were asked about the harm (particularly to their homes and vehicles) they personally experienced as a direct result of Hurricane Harvey, 55 percent reported no personal impact, 28 percent experienced damage to their homes and 13 percent reported vehicle damage.

Ninety-one percent of Harris County respondents (regardless of whether they were affected by the storm) said property owners should be required to notify potential buyers or renters if the property they are considering has flooded in recent years. In addition, 72 percent favored using public money to protect industries along the Houston Ship Channel from hurricane surge flooding, and the same percentage supported prohibiting additional construction in areas that have flooded repeatedly. Sixty-six percent agreed with the statement “If local government had imposed more stringent regulations on development, this would have significantly reduced the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.”

More than 75 percent of Harris County respondents agreed it is “almost certain that the Houston region will experience more severe storms during the next 10 years compared to the past 10 years.” And since Hurricane Harvey, more area residents believe climate change is a “very serious problem.” Fifty-two percent responded this way in 2017, up from 46 percent in 2016. Sixty-four percent believe climate change is “mainly caused by human activities,” compared with 58 percent in 2015.

Quality of life

Although traffic continues to be the biggest problem facing people in the Houston area according to 26 percent of survey respondents in Harris County, 34 percent in Fort Bend County and 20 percent in Montgomery County, more than 10 percent of those surveyed in the metropolitan area’s three biggest counties (13 percent in Harris County, 14 percent in Fort Bend and 12 percent in Montgomery) cited the after-effects of Hurricane Harvey as the area’s greatest problem.

The survey also examined income, education, religion and politics in the three counties. Fort Bend County residents have the most education and household income (with 44 percent of respondents having earned a bachelor’s degree or more and 59 percent from households that earned $75,000 or more per year), Montgomery County is the most religious and Republican (with 12 percent reporting no religion and 52 percent identifying as Republican vs. 29 percent Democrat) and Harris County is the most likely to identify with the Democratic Party (47 percent said they were Democrats, 32 percent Republicans).

Fifty percent of respondents in Montgomery County and 56 percent in Fort Bend said a much-improved mass transit system is “very important” to the future of Houston, compared with 60 percent of Harris County respondents. Thirty percent of Montgomery County respondents and 39 percent in Fort Bend County, compared with 49 percent in Harris County, preferred a smaller home in a more urbanized area rather than a car-dependent larger home.

The economy and government responsibility

Harris County respondents with a positive view of job opportunities increased from 63 percent in 2017 to 67 percent this year. In addition, respondents who said their personal financial situations have improved grew from 29 to 35 percent since last year, and those saying the quality of living conditions in the Houston area has been “getting better” grew from 36 to 40 percent.

Sixty-five percent of individuals surveyed believe that the government should take action to reduce income differences between rich and poor in America, compared with 45 percent in 2010. In addition, nearly half of all Harris County residents surveyed believe welfare recipients are legitimately in need of help, up from 31 percent in 2010. Seventy-two percent of respondents indicated they favor federal health insurance to cover the medical costs of all Americans.

Attitudes toward education

Although the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimated that 65 percent of jobs by 2020 will require some kind of postsecondary education, the number of Houstonians surveyed who believe education beyond high school is necessary for success has declined sharply in the last five years. Sixty-four percent of Hispanic immigrants, 48 percent of U.S.-born Anglos, 47 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics and 39 percent of African Americans said post-secondary education is necessary for success, compared with 88, 61, 71 and 78 percent, respectively, in 2013.

However, a clear majority of area residents, 54 percent, believe that “in order to get a job that pays more than $35,000 a year, you need to have at least one or two years of education beyond high school.” The breakdown by ethnicity was 42 percent of U.S.-born Anglos, 59 percent of African Americans, 55 percent of U.S.-born Hispanics and 60 percent of foreign-born Hispanics.

When asked 10 years ago if public schools in Houston have enough money to provide a quality education, 49 percent of survey respondents said the schools need much more money. This year 56 percent said schools need more funding, and 67 percent said they are in favor of “increasing local taxes in order to provide universal preschool education for all children in Houston.”

Immigration and the political divide

The proportion of respondents who said they were in favor of “granting illegal immigrants a path to legal citizenship if they speak English and have no criminal record” grew to 82 percent in this year’s survey, compared with 67 percent in 2010. Sixty-three percent of respondents believe immigrants to the U.S. generally “contribute more to the American economy than they take,” up from 45 percent in 2010, and the belief that refugees who are in danger in their home countries should be welcome in Houston has grown to 75 percent from 64 percent in 2016.

When survey participants were asked about America’s future, their answers varied by political affiliation. Seventy-one percent of those who identified as Republicans said the country is headed for “better times,” compared to 21 percent who identified as Democrats. Seventy-six percent of Democrats said “more difficult times” lie ahead for the U.S.

About the survey

The interviews for the 37th annual Kinder Houston Area Survey averaged more than 30 minutes each and were conducted between Jan. 23 and March 1 by Social Sciences Research Solutions in Media, Penn. SSRS reached a scientifically selected representative sample of 807 residents from Harris County, 350 from Fort Bend County and 350 from Montgomery County for a total of 1,507 participants (60 percent were reached by landline, 40 percent by cellphone).

The survey is available online at and