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    Rio Grande Guardian > Higher Ed > Story
checkPoll: Most Valley residents feel less safe
Last Updated: 23 July 2014
By Steve Taylor
Members of the Center for Survey Research at UT-Pan American moved into their new offices last February. (File photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)
EDINBURG, July 23 - Only one in four Rio Grande Valley residents feel safer living on the U.S.-Mexico border today than they did five years ago, according to a new opinion poll.

The Pulse of the Valley poll, conducted by UT-Pan American’s Center for Survey Research (CSR), found that almost 60 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that the Valley is safer today than it was five years ago.

When asked how successful border security measures have been in dealing with the issues most important to them, about 14 percent of respondents said very successful, 46 percent said somewhat successful, 16 percent said somewhat unsuccessful, and 20 percent said very unsuccessful, the Pulse of the Valley opinion poll found.

With regard to the border wall, 73 percent of respondents indicated that its construction has had no impact on their feeling of safety, while 11 percent said the wall makes them feel less safe. Thirteen percent said they feel safer.

As for border checkpoints, 57 percent of respondents indicated that they have been stopped at a border checkpoint, such as the one at Falfurrias or the one at Sarita, or when entering the United States. Fifty percent said that their experience when stopped was positive, 33 percent said neutral, and 12.5 percent said that they had a negative experience.

Dr. Jessica Lavariega Monforti is director of the Center for Survey Research. Dr. William Donner is the group’s associate director. Lavariega Monforti said the Pulse of the Valley survey is based upon interviews with 614 residents of Hidalgo and Cameron counties. It was conducted April 9-25, 2014.

“The Pulse of the Valley survey data was collected by over 40 students, both graduate and under-graduate, at UTPA. They gained invaluable experience in this project. At the same time they were able to offer scientifically collected information reflecting the attitudes and opinions of residents in Hidalgo and Cameron counties to the public,” Lavariega Monforti said.

“We are very interested in partnering with cities, with agencies, to do projects like this in the future, to continue to train our students and offer our services to the community.”

The Pulse of the Valley survey covered topics of national, state, and local importance. The survey went out to both landline and cell phone numbers. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish, at the respondent’s discretion, by students from the local area. The margin of error for the study is +/-3.95 percent.

A total of 76 questions were asked in the survey. In addition to border security, responses were sought on issues such as the new UT-Rio Grande Valley, disaster preparedness, the Affordable Care Act, politics, demographics, gender and age.

CSR, which recently moved into more spacious offices on the UTPA campus in Edinburg, is currently providing a basic overview of the results of the survey.

On the issue of education, Hidalgo and Cameron county residents said that, overall, the creation of UT-RGV, through the merger of UTPA and UT-Brownsville, will have a positive impact on the Valley.

Establishing the university’s curriculum along with faculty and staff employment are the “highest priority challenges” facing the new university, respondents said. Nearly 81 percent of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed that the formation of UTRGV represents the “wants and needs of the residents of the area.”

With regard to healthcare, 67 percent of respondents to the Pulse of the Valley survey indicated that Medicaid should be expanded in Texas. Most residents have health insurance, the survey found. Just over 70 percent of respondents have health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare coverage, while 28 percent have none. More than one third of respondents rated their access to healthcare services as “poor or fair” while about 40 percent of the respondents rated their level of access to healthcare as “above average.” About one third of respondents indicated that access to health insurance has become easier to obtain since the passage of ACA, while just over one third disagreed or strongly disagreed with that statement. Respondents trust national-level newspapers (45.3 percent) and friends and family (38 percent) most for information about ACA and related policies.

As for a natural disaster, about 66 percent of respondents indicated that they feel “very or somewhat” prepared to deal with such a catastrophe. The majority of respondents reported having a flashlight with an extra battery, first aid kit, manual can opener for food, cell phone with charger, three-day supply of non-perishable food, and sufficient water supply in case of emergencies. However, less than half of respondents indicated that they know where the shelter nearest to their home is, and even fewer have an emergency evacuation plan.

Almost 80 percent of respondents have experienced a hurricane, the survey found, while 74 percent have experienced large hail, 71 percent damaging winds, 55 percent flooding, 33 percent a tornado, and less than two percent have experienced either a blizzard or earthquake.

For more information on the Pulse of the Valley, email Lavariega Monforti at lavariegaj@utpa.edu or Donner at donnerwr@utpa.edu.

Write Steve Taylor



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