Every year, Rice University releases a study gauging the attitudes of Houstonians, and the 2016 study, released yesterday, yielded few surprises. Most trends appear to be continuing: Houstonians are feeling better about their parks, their city and their own futures. They feel pretty good about their jobs, though not as good as before oil went bust. They still don't feel so hot about traffic. And the area is becoming more and more left-leaning.
The study also showed that an overwhelming 79 percent of Houstonians think there should be some sort of equal rights ordinance passed that protects citizens from discrimination. According to the study, 60 percent of Houstonians responded that passing a non-discrimination ordinance was "very important," while 19 percent said it would be "somewhat important." If only Houstonians had the chance to enact such a law...
Oh, wait. We did. In November, Houstonians could have approved the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance bill, or HERO, but it was rejected after 60 percent of voters chose to strike it down.
Why is there such a massive gap between "public opinion" and "public policy?" The study attributes the difference to a handful of key factors: the disproportionate influence of money in politics, low voter turnout, gerrymandered election districts and intensely single-issue voters. The survey's developer, Stephen Klineberg, offered a more specific explanation for why this particular public opinion was unheeded.
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From a blog on the Kinder Institute's website:
[Klineberg] speculated the discrepancy is due to who actually showed up at the polls. Those who opposed the ordinance may have been more motivated to vote. Also, he noted, the controversial television ad campaign that played into fears that the law would allow men to prey on women and children in restrooms. “The vote was about a bathroom ordinance, not about equal rights, and it’s a reminder of the importance of the way these propositions get framed in the political process,” Klineberg said.
You can read the entire study here: