San Antonio area voters are increasingly concerned with the cost of living and are less likely to think the region is headed in the right direction or that they are “living comfortably,” according to the latest Bexar Facts/San Antonio Report poll results released Tuesday.
Worries about inflation and the cost of living dominated the poll findings: 78% of voters said the rising cost of food was an extremely or very serious problem, and 73% cited the rising price of gas and cost of housing for middle- and working-class families. The online and telephone poll of 695 registered voters was conducted in both English and Spanish April 9-17.
“Increased concern about the cost of living — that is the thing that really jumps off the page in this poll,” said Dave Metz, pollster for the Bexar Facts/San Antonio Report poll. “Those cost of living concerns have gone up by double digits since our last poll … and now represent the sort of issues that residents of Bexar County are most concerned about.”
The survey respondents attributed those increasing costs to a wide range of factors; disruptions in the supply chain and pandemic-related closures were cited most frequently. “[That] suggests that voters recognize that this may be sort of a temporary disruption that we’re facing rather than a more sustained economic shift,” Metz said.
When ranking the severity of problems from a wide-ranging list, from inadequate public transit options to unemployment, increased cost of living rose to the top with 80% of respondents saying it’s an extremely or very serious problem.
For the first time since the Bexar Facts poll launched in early 2020, the percentage of voters who think the city and the county in general are moving in the “right direction” dipped below 40%. Just 34% of respondents said Bexar County was moving in the “right direction,” down from 58% in April 2020.
“That is not a sentiment that is unique to Bexar County and something that we’re seeing take place nationally,” Metz said, as cost of living concerns are up across the U.S.
Asked whether federal, state or local government should take the lead in addressing cost-of-living issues such as food and health care costs, 50% or more of respondents said they believed the federal government should assume that role.
In another poll result indicating residents’ anxiety about inflation, only about one-third of voters described themselves as “living comfortably.” White men were the most likely to report living comfortably, while Latino women were more likely to report they were only just meeting their living expenses.
“Keep in mind, this is among the voting population, which is a group that typically is a little bit better off and less vulnerable to some of these economic changes,” Metz said. They are more likely to be white, better educated, older and homeowners.
Support for bond’s housing proposition
Early voting began Monday for the May 7 bond election in which San Antonio voters will decide on six propositions that would allocate $1.2 billion toward street repairs, drainage, parks, public facilities — and for the first time, affordable housing.
The Bexar Facts poll found that 65% of respondents supported the $150 million housing portion of the bond, with 39% saying they definitely would approve the measure and another 20% “probably” would vote yes. Only 8% of voters said they were undecided.
Although respondents identifying themselves as Democrats and liberals showed the highest support for the housing bond, nearly half who identify as conservative were also in favor. “These kinds of investments seem to be responsive to some of the concerns that Bexar County voters are pointing to as some of the biggest issues facing the region,” Metz said.
Support for the housing bond — and the other infrastructure improvements in the bond propositions — could also be tied to the voting community’s general understanding that such infrastructure relates to the public health issues the community faces, he said.
For the first time, the Bexar Facts poll asked voters about those social determinants of health.
“The public gets that your physical health is not simply a factor of the choices you make, but that where you live [and] the environment that surrounds you plays a hugely critical role,” Metz said.
More than three-quarters of the respondents said lack of health insurance and access to quality medical care are extremely or very important factors affecting health. In addition, 81% said family violence was a key factor. More than half identified high stress, low income, pollution, access to healthy food, neighborhood and housing conditions, education opportunities and racism and discrimination as other health factors.
Almost 80% of respondents also agreed that personal behavioral choices play a role in health outcomes.
Republicans were less likely to acknowledge the social determinants of health as playing a large role in public health in the poll, but younger voters and women were more likely to believe that a lack of access to medical care, high stress and low income are extremely important contributors to health.