One-Third of Orleans Area Residents Polled May Leave in 2 Years

Even among the best-off post-Katrina returnees to New Orleans and neighboring Jefferson Parish – those living in houses or apartments, rather than trailers – about one-third say they may leave the area within the next two years, a small poll indicates.

The poll only reached people whose houses or apartments were in good enough shape to have a land-based phone, pollster Susan E. Howell of the University of New Orleans noted as she released the results Nov. 28. “They are presumably not in trailers,” she wrote.

And, since the university’s Survey Research Center called 200 people in each parish, the margin of error was a hefty 7 percent in each – that is, any figure could be as much as 7 percentage points too high or too low.

Howell reported that, even though Jefferson Parish’s approval ratings were about equal to those before the hurricane hit on Aug. 29, 2005, 17 percent said they were very likely to leave within two years, and 15 said they were somewhat likely to do so, Howell reported.

The figures, adding up to about one-third of all people who answered, were the same in Orleans Parish, where approval ratings were even lower than they had been before Katrina hit.

A UNO poll in 2004 found that 59 percent of New Orleans residents described themselves as satisfied or very satisfied with life in the parish, compared to 89 percent in Jefferson Parish.

Howell said a poll in April got satisfied or very satisfied responses from 48 percent of the residents questioned, and the one in October from 53 percent. “What is troubling is that there has been no improvement in satisfaction over the past seven months,” she wrote.

In Jefferson Parish, the “satisfaction rating” was 89 percent in April and 87 percent in October.

Jefferson Parish councilman John Young said he was pleased with the overall satisfaction rating for his parish. “I would say that’s a good sign, that we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. But, he added that he is concerned that so many of the poll’s respondents are thinking about leaving.

Howell said the surveys indicate that keeping those people who have returned depends on several policy priorities: Controlling crime, streamlining bureaucracy and making government more “proactive” – fixing levees and flood prevention; and fixing roads and other infrastructure.

A survey over the summer indicated that about 190,000 people – and at most 209,000 – now live in New Orleans, less than half its population of 454,000 before Hurricane Katrina. The same survey estimated Jefferson Parish’s population at 435,786, about 17,000 fewer people than before the storm.