The Center for Austin’s Future releases inaugural “Future Focus” poll



-- Registered voters love their city but loathe its traffic and growth --


The Center for Austin’s Future (CAF) released its inaugural “Future Focus” poll Tuesday with respondents confirming what many intuitively know about Austin: growth has negatively affected congestion and housing costs. At the same time, voters view the quality of life overall as high and people have a strong affinity for the neighborhood they live in.


“The Austin MSA - which is now the 30th largest in the nation - has been the fastest-growing major metro in the country over the past eight years,” said Jose Beceiro, the Center for Austin’s Future Board President. “The growth provides job opportunities and prosperity for many in the city but it also creates serious challenges which cause resistance to more growth. We believe that better, future-focused policymaking to plan for growth and manage it well is the message voters are sending in this poll.”


CAF’s annual “Future Focus” poll queried 800 voters generally spread evenly among the ten city-council districts. The open-ended style poll was conducted by Strategic Research Associates, led by Dr. Jim Henson and Dr. Josh Blank.


The Future Focus poll returned several UNSURPRISING results:

  • Transportation, congestion and mobility dominate the issue landscape of voter concerns about Austin.

  • The rapid rise in the cost of living, led by housing, continues to be a significant worry for voters.

  • While voters show a great deal of enthusiasm for their neighborhoods and the general quality of life in the city, that enthusiasm is tempered by fatigue brought on by continued population growth.

The Future Focus poll also returned a few SURPRISING results:

  • When asked what would most improve the overall quality of life in the city, 31 percent of voters cited an aspect of the transportation system, but 69 percent could provide no recommendations. This is a reflection of the complexity of the problem and the need for leaders to focus on creating novel solutions.

  • Fewer than one-third of Austin voters can identify their city council member, the number of council seats or the name of Austin’s failed redesign of the city’s land development code, known as CodeNEXT.

  • Bucking a nationally perceived trend, a significant majority of voters say they get most of their public issue-based information from traditional print and broadcast news media versus social media.

  • Only 34 percent think that Austin's population growth has been good for the city, while 43 percent say it has been bad and 23 percent declined to offer an opinion.

  • Slightly less than a majority (49 percent) think Austin’s on the “right track” while 40 percent think it’s on the “wrong track.”

Population growth in Austin is nothing new. Austin’s population has generally doubled every 20 to 25 years since its founding in 1847. In 1975, for example, a city of Austin study predicted today’s population within 5 percentage points, a prediction more than 44 years old.


“Nobody wants the opposite of growth –– high unemployment, declining property values and, in many cases, a spiraling-out-of-control quality of life,” said Ward Tisdale, the Center’s executive director. “As a city and region, we just have to do a better job of planning for growth by investing in transportation infrastructure and reforming a land development code that enables housing supply to keep up with or outpace demand. It’s simple: voters are asking for pragmatic solutions to obvious problems.”


Responsible growth is also important to protect Austin’s unique environment.


“Energy used for transportation currently generates 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Travis County,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas. “Our 2018 study, ‘Growing Greener,’ and other studies have found that people living in compact neighborhoods drive 20 to 40 percent less than those living in sprawling neighborhoods, using less energy and producing fewer emissions.”


Methodology

A total of 800 registered voters eligible to vote in Austin City Council Elections were surveyed between March 18-22, 2019. Respondents were contacted by live interviewers, with 44% of calls completed on a landline telephone and 56% completed over a cellular telephone. On average, respondents completed the interview in 12 minutes. The final results are weighted based on analysis of the state voter file. The margin of error for the complete sample is +/- 3.46 percentage points, with higher margins of error for any sub-group.


About the Center for Austin’s Future

The mission of the Center for Austin’s Future is to recruit, train and promote city council candidates who are equipped to focus on solutions that position Austin for future success, sustainability and excellent quality of life. The Center’s signature program is the ATXeleratorTM, which aims to encourage citizens to pursue and prepare for elected office and board/commission service through a technology accelerator model. The Center’s Advisory Board is comprised of former mayors Lee Cooke, Lee Leffingwell and Bruce Todd; former city council members Brewster McCracken and Randi Shade; and community/business leaders Jose Carillo, Greta Goldsby, Jeff Hahn, Thomas Miranda, Catherine Morse, Nan McRaven, Pike Powers, John Scarborough and Lemuel Williams.


Contact: Ward Tisdale at ward.tisdale@gmail.com or 512-415-5544


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