Crime remains by far the major concern of Houston voters, with four out of five people saying crime should be a top priority for the next mayor. About two out of three say City Hall should focus on the poor condition of city streets and roads, the economy and jobs, and flooding.

With early voting in city elections scheduled to start next week, Oct. 23, the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston asked likely voters to weigh in on what issues the next mayor should prioritize. Crime emerged as the key issue.

“We found the perception of crime as a serious concern is consistent across all ages, racial, ethnic and other demographic groups,” said Renée Cross, senior executive director of the Hobby School. “Younger voters are less likely to say that than older voters, but even among millennials and members of Gen Z, 65% list crime as a top priority.”


Three out of four Hobby School survey participants said crime is the Houston’s biggest worry. When asked about solutions, 62% favored hiring 600 more police officers. Support was also strong for hiring more mental health workers.    Photo credit: Trace Hudson

Republicans are most likely to cite crime as a top priority, at 96%, compared with 74% of Democrats and 88% of independent voters. Latino and Black Democrats rank the issue higher than their white counterparts, at 77% and 88% respectively. Just 50% of white Democrats list crime as a top priority for City Hall.

Black voters also appear significantly more concerned about economic issues, Cross said, with 84% of Black voters saying the economy and jobs should be a top priority for the next mayor, compared with 72% of Latino voters and 56% of white voters. “Four out of five Black voters, or 79%, also say affordable housing should be a top priority, while fewer than half of Latino voters and less than one-third of white voters agree.”

Mark P. Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and senior research fellow at the Hobby School, said the researchers also found support for each of four proposals to combat crime in the city, although there is considerable variation among different groups.

A proposal to hire an additional 600 police officers was the most popular overall, Jones said, with 62% of voters saying they strongly support the plan. While 80% of Republicans strongly support this proposal, that drops to 54% among Democrats and a low of 47% among younger voters.

There are stark racial divides in support for the proposed solutions, as well. “More than two-thirds of Black voters, for example, strongly support a proposal to allocate $25 million to hire mental health workers rather than dispatching police officers to deal with people in crisis,” Jones said. “And 79% of Black voters strongly support proposals to improve relationships between the Houston Police Department and communities of color.” Those proposals drew support from 44% and 48%, respectively, of white voters. Just 21% of Republicans support hiring additional mental health workers.

Deploying 200 state troopers to supplement the number of officers on the street has been discussed on the campaign trail. Jones said 42% of voters overall strongly support the plan – another 23% said they “somewhat support” it – but just 36% of Black voters and only 29% of millennial/Gen Z voters strongly support this proposed partnership with DPS.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • More than half of voters, or 58%, oppose instituting a trash collection fee to defray the cost of trash and recycling pickup. 17% said they support a monthly $25 fee, and an additional 25% said they support a monthly fee between $20 and $30, depending on bin size.
  • Still, 35% said trash and recycling pickup should be a priority for the next mayor; support for that ranged from a low of 23% among millennial and Gen Z voters and 27% among white voters to 44% of Latino voters.
  • 51% of voters said the city is heading in the wrong direction, with stark differences based on gender, racial identity and partisanship. 63% of white voters said the city is headed in the wrong direction, compared with 53% of Latino voters and just 29% of Black voters. 91% of Republicans and 66% of independent voters said the city is headed in the wrong direction; just 23% of Democrats agreed. 55% of men said the same, compared with 45% of women.
  • More than six years after Hurricane Harvey, 65% of voters say flooding should be a top priority for the next mayor. Still, only 30% list it among the city’s top three most pressing problems.
  • 13% said parks should be a top priority for the next mayor, although an additional 59% said parks and recreation are an “important but lower priority.”
  • Just 8% list poor air quality as among the city’s top three problems.

The full report is available on the Hobby School website.

The survey asked 800 likely Houston voters about their preferences in the upcoming city election. It was conducted between September 30 and October 6, 2023, in English and Spanish. The margin of error is +/ 3.5%.

-Story by Jeannie Kever