Climate Change

Oregonians’ feelings on climate change, necessary solutions, and how the issue compares to others like houselessness and affordable housing.

From February 11-20, 2023, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the accompanying annotated questionnaire. Due to rounding, the percentages reported below may not add to 100% or compare exactly to the percentages for the same question in the annotated questionnaire or tabs.

Included below for selected questions are noteworthy subgroups variations for BIPOC/white, age, urban/rural, education, gender, and households with and without children. The accompanying set of tabs notes subgroup variations for all the questions.

OVBC surveys currently use aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.

For survey full question wording, all statistically significant subgroup findings, and respondent quotes, readers are encouraged to refer to the accompanying three documents: (1) annotated questionnaire, (2) crosstabulations document, and (3) verbatim written responses spreadsheet.Oregon Values and Beliefs Center (OVBC): This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. OVBC is an independent and non-partisan organization and an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation. Representative OVBC projects include opinion research about race-based crimes for the Asian Health and Service Center, as well as research about early childhood education and the cost of childcare for the Children’s Institute.

Climate Change Concerns Rank Below Houselessness and Affordable Housing for Oregonians

  • Four in ten Oregonians are very worried about the impacts of climate change (Q37, 41% very worried), ranking the issue as a second-tier concern. Concerns that rank higher for Oregonians include houselessness (Q38, 58%), affordable housing (Q49, 57%), substance abuse and addiction (Q39, 47%), increasing polarization in politics (Q43, 45%), and political violence (Q41, 42%).
    • Just one in ten Oregonians express not being at all worried about the impacts of climate change.
    • Those who express the highest level of very worried are women, those 65 and older, those with a college degree, and those who live in urban areas.
  • Prior research validates climate change as an important issue to Oregonians, but one that is often overshadowed by more immediate concerns, such as houselessness.
    • When given the opportunity to express in their own words what they see as the most important issue for elected officials in a September 2022 survey conducted by OVBC, climate change was the sixth-most commonly mentioned issue (5%), behind homelessness (38%); housing affordability (15%); crime and safety (12%); drugs and addiction (8%); and cost of living and inflation (6%).

Outlook for the Next 100 Years

  • More Oregonians believe that we’re in trouble and climate change will lead to ecological collapse and the major loss of human life (Q52, 54%), than believe that we’ll be OK and humans will adapt to the effects of climate change (40%). Just 7% believe that climate change is not really happening.
    • Those most likely to say we’re in trouble include women, college graduates, those who live in urban areas of Oregon, and BIPOC Oregonians.
    • Oregonians expressed related concerns in August of 2021, where two-thirds of Oregonians (66%) said they believe there is small or no chance that humans can solve climate change before the worst impacts.

Oregonians Support Both Government and Personal Action to Tackle Climate Change

  • Past research validates that while Oregonians are somewhat pessimistic about our ability to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, they generally believe in the need for government and personal action to tackle the issue.
    • In a September 2022 survey, a plurality of Oregonians believed that both strong individual actions and government regulations (45%) were needed to address climate change, while 15% focused on government regulations, and 13% focused on individual actions. Beyond that, 17% said no action was needed and 10% said they did not know.
    • In the August 2021 survey referred to above, Oregonians identified impacts of climate change that they are already experiencing: longer hotter summers (81%), droughts (80%), extreme weather events, like hurricanes and flooding, and environmental events, like forest fires, crop failures, and timber die off (62%-76%).
    • In terms of actions, Oregonians also called for both government regulations and individual actions to address climate change (60%) in August 2021. For government action, Oregonians strongly supported tree planting (81%), prioritizing renewable energy (80%), increased restrictions on industrial emissions (73%), and tougher fuel efficiency standards (69%). For individual actions, Oregonians most favored reducing fossil fuel use, driving, water use, consumption of goods, and air travel by 25% or more (75%-83%).

Oregonians in their Own Words: A Call to Action

“I worry that some people don’t do their part, but I am optimistic given the capacity for humans to solve problems. We really do have the capacity to do amazing things.”

Woman, age 18-29, Deschutes County, Asian

“I do think humans on some scale will survive but it’s going to become much harder and we’re going to see an increase in deaths of despair and major strain on our infrastructure.”

Woman, age 55-64, Multnomah County, Black or African American

“As we heat up, crops that were once plentiful in Oregon will no longer survive, lakes will begin to dry up affecting our waterways and fish life.”

Woman, age 30-44, Clackamas County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native and White

“The change in weather conditions is very alarming and difficult to deal with at my job.”

Man, age 30-44, Baker County, Hispanic/Latino/x

“We are already seeing climate change in my area. Hotter summers, drought, and icier winters.”

Man, age 55-64, Yamhill County, Hispanic/Latino/x

“Water, the lack of it, will be the fundamental issue of civilization in the next 100 years. Climate refugees will be the second. The third will be the social disruption caused by the first two.”

Woman, age 18-29, Umatilla County, Hispanic/Latina/x

“We’d be lucky to still be here 100 years from now. I think we passed the point of no return and we aren’t making enough changes fast enough to fix it.”

Non-binary or gender non-conforming, age 30-44, Marion County, White