Survey: New Orleans Residents Optimistic in Spite of Troubles

August 11, 2008

New Orleans residents are surprisingly optimistic three years after Hurricane Katrina, considering that most see little or no progress in key areas and feel the rest of the country has forgotten their lingering troubles, says the head of the foundation that did the research.

But the percentage of residents who said they are planning to move out of the city or seriously considering such a move has nearly doubled since 2006, from 12 percent to 22 percent, according to the study released Aug. 10 by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The foundation, a nonprofit, private group focused health care issues, said repairing levees, pumps and floodwalls was the only key area where a solid majority — 60 percent of the 1,294 New Orleans residents interviewed — said there has been at least some progress.

Seven in 10 saw little or no progress in either availability of affordable housing or controlling crime, the report said.

In addition, 64 percent said it’s hard to find good jobs, six in 10 say they don’t think rebuilding the city is a priority for Congress and the president, and 65 percent said they think most Americans have forgotten about the problems facing New Orleans.

Even so, 56 percent still told researchers in March and April that the rebuilding and recovery are going in the right direction, and 74 percent said they are optimistic about the city’s future.

“The fact that so many people in the city are still optimistic about the future is surprising,” Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the foundation, said last week. “It also frames the challenge of the future — whether the recovery can maintain enough momentum to sustain that optimism.”

Altman said New Orleans’ optimism makes the city vary from other cities with problems and large populations of low-income residents.

Other findings of the new survey include:
–55 percent of the people surveyed feel there has been little or no progress in rebuilding neighborhoods destroyed by the storm.
–59 percent feel there has been little or no progress in making medical facilities and services more available.
–72 percent said federal recovery money has been “mostly misspent.”
–86 percent said New Orleans had at least a “somewhat serious” problem with political corruption, and 58 percent considered it “very serious.”
–84 percent face continuing health problems, whether physical, mental, health care coverage, or problems with a child’s health.
–65 percent reported some sort of chronic condition or disability, or being in at best fair health, up from 45 percent in 2006.

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