Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Borderlands Bureau has commissioned a poll on border issues. The survey looks at immigration, health care, the economy and more. Angela Kocherga, director of the Borderlands Bureau, will discuss the poll results.
Ted Simons: The Borderlands Bureau at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication recently commissioned a poll that was conducted in communities along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. The border with Mexico, I should say. The poll reveals attitudes on major issues impacting border towns and residents. We spoke with borderlands bureau director Angela Kocherga about the survey, along a student from the bureau, Courtney Pedroza. Thank you for joining us on "Arizona Horizon." good to have you here.
Angela Korcherga: Thank you, Ted.
Ted Simons: Good to have you both here. A major U.S.-Mexican border poll, what are we talking about?
Angela Korcherga: It's the first poll where someone has gone to the border and talked to residents on both sides to hear their ideas on a variety of issues. The hot button issue is the border. And we felt it was important to talk with people who lived on the border.
Ted Simons: 1,400 residents in 14 different cities?
Angela Korcherga: The pollsters out of Austin talked in 14 cities, 17 pairs of sister cities, from Texas, Arizona, California, everywhere --
Ted Simons: What did the survey attempt to find?
Angela Korcherga: To get to the heart of the issues as far as border residents are concerned. Not just the issues dictated out of Washington and Mexico City, but what do the people on the border think are the important issues? And, of course, we had to ask the big topic these days is the border wall. What do people think of it. Is it an important issue and should there be a wall.
Ted Simons: It sounds like there was a lot of opposition to building that wall.
Angela Korcherga: On both sides, a majority of people don't think it's an important issue and secondly, don't think it should be built.
Ted Simons: Does that surprise you at all?
Angela Korcherga: Not me, because I've lived on the border and grew up on the border and covered the border for many years, I think it will surprise a lot of people away from the border.
Ted Simons: Courtney, you're a photographer and spoke to people along the border. Tell us what you did.
Courtney Pedroza: We drove from the Nogales, Arizona, to Laredo, Texas, and talked to as many people as we could about what they thought about living on the border, the issues and problems they had, as well as what they thought the strengths were.
Ted Simons: Did you look for certain folks to talk to? Business people or try to find residents or visitors? Who did you talk to?
Courtney Pedroza: We talked to everyone we could. Families and students and mothers, everyone we could.
Ted Simons: And what kind of responses?
Courtney Pedroza: We got a lot of people saying they were against building the border wall and saying they felt there was a sense of community even though there was a wall in between them, that they were together even though they were separated by the wall.
Ted Simons: Did they feel as though those who don't live along the border don't understand what is going on there?
Courtney Pedroza: They feel they're misunderstood. And that until you are there you don't get what it is like to live in a bicultural community.
Ted Simons: I know another aspect of the poll was asking whether or not the U.S. election politics were damaging. Sounds like a lot of folks thought they were.
Angela Korcherga: On both sides. People thought the tone of the election is damaging U.S.-Mexico relations. Not relations on the local level but between the countries. Because people are against the wall doesn't mean they're in favor of an open border. A lot of people felt the wall was too simple of a solution and didn't get to the root of the problems. Demand for labor and drugs. We have a fence now, it hasn't stopped drug trafficking and there's a concern how you're going to deal with the root causes.
Ted Simons: Back to politics. 59% in the United States, 69% on the Mexican side, is this basically Donald Trump or is there more to it?
Angela Korcherga: We did not ask candidate-related questions. The pollster did not ask that, but his name obviously came up repeated and you can't deny that the wall was tied to that candidate and become part of the Republican Party platform. That's on people's minds.
Ted Simons: Courtney, did the name Trump come up often?
Courtney Pedroza: It came up in almost every interview. We didn't particularly bring it up, but his name is associated with the border wall.
Ted Simons: Another question was whether or not you liked your neighbors. Sounds like they did.
Courtney Pedroza: Yes, they feel a sense of community. They go back and forth all the time. It's not -- they don't see it as two separate countries, they see it as one big community.
Ted Simons: Is that something that the poll shows, most people think of the border as just an absolute war zone. It's not, is it?
Angela Korcherga: No, it's not a war zone or a no man's land. It's an area where people share more than geography, they share a history, blood tie, an economy. A heavy dependence, one on the other, and business ties and family ties and, as Courtney said, it's one community.
Ted Simons: And both sides -- are dependent on neighbors. No surprise there.
Angela Korcherga: I think that the surprise is -- even for me, is that it's higher on the U.S. side. People feel more dependent on Mexico on the U.S. side of the border. That makes sense because the local economy depends on people coming over to shop and spend money and so they really do depend on the Mexican visitors.
Ted Simons: You mentioned, they're not pushing for an open border but there was a question whether or not you can come and go, go to one side of the border to work and go home after and that seemed to find favor as well.
Angela Korcherga: A lot of favor. Both sides, people feel, labor mobility. And we have one story looking at that, in Yuma, Arizona, a lot of the agricultural industry really needs workers. There's a shortage and need people to be able to come back and forth. And right now, they're struggling, and people coming to work, they would rather come legally.
Ted Simons: Do you find folks who did go back and forth as best they could?
Courtney Pedroza: Yes, every day for work, it's not surprising that they are coming back and forth each day, it's normal.
Ted Simons: And as far as where things are going, do they feel things are getting better or not getting any better? I know, we talked about the election politics and the damage there, but just general, life in general, what are they seeing, telling?
Courtney Pedroza: They're saying a lot about the quality of life is improving. Some don't feel safe, some feel safe on the U.S. side -- it's complex.
Ted Simons: Did you find it different in terms of safety and satisfaction on one side of the border, even with sister cities?
Courtney Pedroza: Yes, there was a big concern for safety. They didn't trust the police. The majority of the Mexican correspondents didn't trust the police, and the U.S. Side completely trusted them.
Angela Korcherga: That was one of the few differences. One question was do you trust law enforcement and on the Mexican side, overwhelmingly, no. For good reason. And on the U.S. side, overwhelmingly yes, and people felt safe. On the Mexican side, the number one issue for people in the poll was public safety, personal safety.
Ted Simons: Where do we go from here?
Angela Korcherga: I think we need to listen and learn from the residents. People who understand the complexities of the border and they feel frustrated on both sides that policymakers do not take their voices and insight into account and especially during an election year, they're hoping their voices can be heard.
Ted Simons: And what did you learn on this adventure?
Courtney Pedroza: I learned about the border. I think until you're there and until you talk to the people who live there and go back and forth every day, you don't really understand it and that's really what I learned.
Ted Simons: Very good. Congratulations to you, to both of you. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.
Angela Kocherga: Director of the Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Borderlands Bureau; Courtney Pedroza: Student at the Borderlands Bureau