2022 Research Summary: Oregonians’ Common Ground

A brief summary of some of the common ground we found among Oregonians through the research conducted by OVBC during 2022.

In 2019, we founded the Oregon Values and Belief Center to carry on the research we started in 1992.  Our board, as well as the many Oregonians who support us, feel our work is important to our livability and quality of life.

  • We think it’s essential that policymakers and community leaders understand the views of all Oregonians, not just likely voters. Our surveys are representative of the general population 18+ and stratified for different areas of the state and demographic characteristics.
  • We want our ongoing research to be available publicly, particularly to organizations that don’t have room in their budgets for private polling. It’s especially important to us that nonprofits and local governments in rural areas have access to our findings, to assist them in building stronger communities.
  • We want to build bridges. While our divisions get the most attention, we as Oregonians agree on many issues. We want to shine a light on the values and beliefs that unite us so we can best work together.
  • Unlike most surveys, we give respondents the opportunity to talk about their views in their own words – to bring up issues and perspectives that are important to them but may be overlooked in more conventional surveys.

Throughout the year, we make our research available through news releases, blog postings on our website, and direct communication with subscribers.

How We Conduct Our Surveys

OVBC has engaged the help of about 4,000 Oregonians who are invited to participate in an online survey each month. We use demographic quotas and statistical weighting by area of the state, age, gender, and education to assure that the sample is representative of Oregon’s general population. Our blog entries and annotated questionnaires include a complete description of our methods.

Oregonians’ Top Issues – Interconnected Issues and Finding Common Ground

When we asked Oregonians to tell us in their own words what they thought public officials needed to address, the most frequent subject named was homelessness. Throughout the year, issues related to homelessness emerged in a variety of surveys. Survey responses revealed that Oregonians see their top five issues of concern as connected and contributing to each other.

  • Homelessness was the most frequently mentioned issue needing attention by officials both in 2021 and 2022.
  • Oregonians believe that lack of affordable housing, plus mental health and addiction, are major contributors to homeless. They believe that addressing these issues will reduce homelessness substantially.  Both are among the top five most important issues listed as requiring government attention.
  • So are the topics of crime and inflation, which also come up in discussions of homelessness.

So, let’s look at what Oregonians think about with respect to some of these issues.

Housing Affordability and Availability

Nearly two-thirds of Oregonians are worried about their own financial situations. In open-ended questions, people told us that they worry that wages are not keeping up with inflation generally, and specifically with housing costs. Housing costs are mentioned repeatedly in answers to open-ended questions.

While worried for themselves, they are also looking out for those without homes now. They generally agree that permanent and temporary housing would have a major effect on reducing homelessness. More than 70 percent of respondents said temporary housing should be guaranteed, and 64 percent agreed that permanent shelter or housing should be guaranteed.

Mental Health/Addiction

Four out of five Oregonians believe mental health treatment will make a difference in reducing houselessness, including 56% who say it will have a strong impact.  

Similarly, 76 percent said they felt that drug treatment and rehabilitation would contribute to reducing homelessness.

But in a 2021 survey, only 23 percent of Oregonians were satisfied with the mental health services available in their communities, and even fewer were satisfied with the cost of pharmaceuticals to treat mental health. And this year, respondents volunteered their beliefs that mental health services are essential to the well-being of children and families but are not sufficiently available in Oregon.

In a survey taken at the end of 2021 and reported on in 2002, about two in every three Oregonians reported they are bothered by feelings, including worrying about a variety of things, feeling anxious and on edge, becoming easily annoyed, having trouble relaxing, and not being able to stop worrying.

How Do Oregonians’ Feel About Our Future?

And can we come together?

In response to several major issues, a solid majority of Oregonians expressed concern and distress. And yet in others, they solidly expressed optimism. Let’s look at some of these topics.

Oregonians are worried about the future of the areas they live in. Three-quarters are somewhat or very worried, and only 4 percent are not at all worried.

More than two-thirds – 68 percent – agree that democracy is in peril. However, when asked for specifics, respondents pointed fingers in a wide variety of directions as the cause of their concern: far-right extremists; one-party control for too long; out-of-touch seniors making decisions; lack of secure election systems, etc.

Almost nine in ten Oregonians say the U.S. is politically divided (88%). The same number say that they are somewhat or very worried about this division (88%).  They see political divisions within Oregon, too, but to a lesser degree (74%).

In contrast, Oregonians feel that we have great potential to come together.  A total of 65 percent believe that the state’s residents share values that cut across the many ways we are divided. They believe there is common ground on which we can stand together to make our state a better place.

Twice as many respondents told us that they feel it is more important for political leaders to compromise to get things done (47 percent) than to stick to their beliefs, even if little gets done (22 percent).

Other Areas of Common Ground

Throughout our surveys, regardless of the subject matter, we find strong points of agreement. Here are a few statements that you might find interesting: