Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Could Harris County swing to the Democrats?

According to the latest 2007 Houston Area Survey it sure could. Unlike a few years ago, more people over 18 consider themselves Democrats now then Republicans - 43 percent to 33 percent. In addition, on a number of issues people supported Democratic positions - urban planning, public transportation, reducing pollution, and educating the children of illegal immigrants. However, two issues seem to favor the Republicans, crime is the number one issue now and 72 percent believed illegal immigration was at least a somewhat serious problem according to the Houston Chronicle.

Another story in the Chronicle found that 74 percent in 2006 support federal health insurance and this year, 54 percent said they would pay higher taxes to provide better access to health care, up from 48 percent in 1999. On Republican social issues "55 percent supported government funding of medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos, and 70 percent opposed "a law that would allow pharmacists to refuse to sell any drugs, such as emergency contraception, that run counter to their medical beliefs." However just over half of respondents said they believed abortion, homosexuality and sex change operations were morally wrong.

Rice University has a few more details:
72 percent of the respondents in this year’s survey say “too little” is being spent on “improving the conditions of the poor” – the highest proportion in the survey’s 26 years. And 63 percent describe the gap between rich and poor as a “very serious problem” for the country.

By 66 to 25 percent, the respondents were in favor of “requiring power plants to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, even if electricity rates will rise.” And 61 percent support “raising taxes to set aside and protect wetlands, forests and prairies throughout the Houston area.”

Houstonians remain quite pessimistic about the American future. Sixty-one percent today believe the country is headed for more difficult times. That is down from 68 percent last year, but well above the 47 percent in 2004 and the 54 percent in 2005.

In a development that may mirror their concerns about social issues and their willingness to spend money to address them, Harris County residents have shifted from a consistent plurality that identified themselves as Republicans to a marked preference for the Democratic Party. From 1988 through 2005, Republicans led Democrats by an average of 43 percent to 39 percent. But in 2006, the proportion of Democrats in the county jumped to 48 percent, while support for the Republicans fell to 32 percent. That margin stood at 10 percentage points in this year’s survey: Democratic Party affiliation was at 43 percent and Republican Party affiliation at 33 percent.
The Houston Chronicle also has a story, more a series of anecdotes, on the Latinization of Pasadena. Culture changes as the city becomes majority Latino.

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