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Queso And Self-Loathing: Takeaways From The 'Voices Of Austin' Poll

Stephanie Tacy for KUT News

Here is a list of unsurprising things: Austin has traffic, people here like both breakfast tacos and queso, and most residents don't identify as Republican.

Those startling revelations were revealed in a survey released by Austin pollster Peter Zandan today. Tried-and-true tropes aside, the poll of just over 800 Austinites also teased out some particularly interesting nuggets about residents’ views on transportation, that oft-lauded (or dearly departed, to some) “Soul of Austin” and engagement in local politics.

Here are four takeaways from the Zandan poll.

Traffic: Still A Thing.

As far as marquee issues go, traffic is still grievance No. 1 in Austin. Seventy-four percent of respondents cited traffic, roads and transportation as the most important problems facing Austin today. That tracks with the last Zandan poll, in which 82 percent of respondents said those issues were top-of-mind. With that, Austinites polled also lamented the loss of easy transportation in the survey – ranking the issue second to affordability when asked the top thing Austin has lost in five years of growth.

We Don’t Care About The Old Folks

The majority of those surveyed characterized Austin as a better place to live for millennials than other U.S. cities. Comparatively, nearly half of respondents said Austin was a worse place for members of the greatest generation (those over 72) to inhabit. Nearly 40 percent had the same response for baby boomers.

Zandan told KUT's Nathan Bernier that those demographics also have a markedly different attitude toward Austin. The longer you live here, he says, the more honest you are about the city's flaws and the more pessimistic you are about the future. Only 44 percent of poll respondents over the age of 35 told pollsters that the city's on the right track, compared to 64 percent of millennials.

A Growing Problem

Austinites, it seems, are experiencing a spot of ennui. Fifty-four percent of those polled said Austin was unique, but that it was becoming more like other major cities in the U.S., and 55 percent said the city was definitely losing its appeal because of high costs of living.

Five years into the future, the survey notes 46 percent of respondents think the city will be worse off, while only 16 percent said they think it’ll be better off.

All Politics Are Local?

The survey doesn’t necessarily paint a rosy picture for civic engagement in Austin. Forty-six percent of those surveyed admitted they follow local politics not very closely or not at all, while 53 percent didn’t know enough or didn’t have a strong opinion about the 2015 restructuring of council to geographically representative districts, known as 10-1.

On the other hand, half of respondents said that the Austin City Council should have more local control. But 53 percent of those surveyed said they didn’t vote in the city election last May on Proposition 1, which sought to require fingerprint-based background checks on drivers for Uber and Lyft. Amazingly – despite the fact that it was the most expensive city election in Austin’s history – 15 percent of respondents said they weren’t aware of its existence, while 59 percent of the poll’s respondents said they never used any ride-hailing apps whatsoever. 

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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