STRONG COAST, STRONG TEXAS FAVORED BY MAJORITY OF TEXANS
New Statewide Survey Raises Concerns about Coastal Sustainability and Water
Houston, Texas – Statewide survey results released today by the America’s WETLAND Foundation (AWF) show a majority of Texans worried about the future of the Texas coast as an economic engine driven by a healthy ecosystem.
In a presentation at the 2014 Texas A&M Harte Research Institute’s Gulf of Mexico Summit, Valsin Marmillion, AWF managing director, said, “Texas is poised to recognize its role as a leading coastal state among the world’s great ecosystems.”
Dr. Larry McKinney, who directs the Harte Institute, elaborated on the findings, noting they establish a valuable baseline with implications for the state’s future. “The new findings are a powerful instrument for charting a course forward for dealing with coastal issues in Texas,” McKinney said. “It was a bit disturbing to see confirmation that Texans see themselves as a state with a coast, rather than a coastal state. That may seem subtle but to those of us for whom this issue is paramount, the poll draws a line in the beach sand. It will be the measuring stick of our effectiveness in convincing our fellow citizens that the future of Texas rests with assuring a coast that is economically and environmentally healthy and productive,” he said.
In the survey of registered voters, 62 percent of respondents said Texas was a state with a coast; 38 percent called it a coastal state.
“We found the same when we first polled coastal issues in Louisiana a decade ago,” Marmillion said. “Like in Houston, people in New Orleans didn’t view themselves as a coastal community. Today in post- Katrina Louisiana, that has all changed. Seventy-four percent of Louisiana voters statewide now say coastal restoration is the issue of their lifetime,” he said. Louisiana currently experiences the greatest rate of coastal land loss on the planet.
In the survey,Texans cite the availability of fresh water as most worrisome, When asked about the amount of fresh water reaching the coast, 75 percent of Texas voters say they are concerned, with 38 percent of that number expressing extreme concern. The same percentage (75%) of Texans are concerned with the loss of coastal habitat, not surprising in a state that values coastal hunting, fishing and recreational resources, which are jeopardized by deterioration of the state’s coastline.
Fresh water tops other coastal issues on the minds of Texans, with 62 percent of respondents saying fresh water shortages would motivate them to take action, compared to 49 percent for a disruption to the energy sector that causes price spikes.
Carole Baker, executive director of the Texas Water Foundation, said, “The results of this poll are encouraging when it comes to the public’s opinion about future water supply. Five years ago, Texas polling showed water supply as very low on the priority list. With severe drought conditions in the state since 2011, it seems the public is beginning to be aware of the challenges we face. The state needs to make sure this awareness continues. Diverse water resources and their connection to our other natural resources impact our economy, public health, environment and our way of life.”
When it comes to energy and the economy, other notable survey findings include:
- 68% believe Americans must learn to consume less of everything as the only way to become
energy independent and protect the quality of our environment, In contrast, only 24% say that
there is plenty of oil off our shore, and oil companies should be free to drill and find it.
- 88% of voters agree the federal government should provide a higher percentage of oil and gas
revenues to the energy producing states.
- 95% of voters feel that perceived conflicts between energy production and environmental
protection have become to politically divisive and that greater cooperation is needed, with 86%
saying that a strong Texas economy is dependent on a healthy coastal environment.
- 85% of Texans say it is reasonable to expect that we can drill for oil in the Gulf and still protect the environment. Voters were spilt on their views concerning the BP oil spill: 59% say handling of the spill hurt the energy sector’s reputation and BP’s credibility, and 44% said that BP has been effective in showing that the company has good intentions.
Disaster preparedness issues are also on the minds of voters. When asked who needs to do more to prepare communities for disaster, 70 percent say that the State of Texas should do more, and 51 percent said the Federal government.
When asked about property insurance, 67 percent of Texas voters feel that federal elected officials should not have allowed large federal subsidies, but 68 percent say it would be wrong to pull the plug on federally backed insurance immediately.
Eighty-seven percent of those surveyed connect a healthy coastal system to the insurance issue; with 36 percent strongly agreeing that the State needs to sustain its coastal assets to avoid rises in insurance rates. Texans are also worried about evacuation, emergency response and vulnerable housing areas, by margins of 62 percent, 56 percent and 49 percent, respectively.
Thomas Colbert, associate professor at the University of Houston, said, “We often think the average person doesn’t know about the challenges facing our coastal cities and ecosystems. Now we know that isn’t the case. Most people in Texas are indeed aware of needs like disaster preparedness, hurricane protection, drought, wetlands, habitat protection and resilience planning. This survey gives our political leaders the ammunition they need to respond to these critical national security challenges and shows the people of Texas think we should be better prepared to meet them.”
By margins of 70 percent and 68 percent, respectively, voters statewide in coastal counties both said climate change is a problem, with only 28 percent saying that the issue was not problematic.
“The poll shows that voters across the state, not just along the Texas coast, see the link between a strong environment and the economy that depends upon it,” Sidney Coffee, senior advisor for AWF, said. “This indicates great potential for future support by Texans of sound policies and funding for restoring coastal areas. The people are saying the Texas coast is important to everyone in the state and are looking for strong leadership on these issues,” Coffee said.
The poll included a separate carve-out of voters in coastal regions and only in a few instances were the findings dramatically different from the majority of Texans. Exceptions included awareness overall about disaster preparedness, hurricane protection, and coastal erosion.
The Kitchens Group of Orlando, FL conducted the survey of Texas voters in the first quarter of 2014. It included a survey sample of 489 voters conducted statewide in Texas, with oversample of 200 conducted in the coastal areas.
The margin of error for this survey is ± 4.4%, with a 95% confidence level. Demographic representation included: Republican (39%), Democrat (36%), Independent (25%), White (59%), Hispanic/Latino (19%), AA (15%), Other (7%).