Common Ground and Areas of Dissonance


Areas of Agreement Among Oregonians


A two-month study conducted by the independent, non-partisan Oregon Values and Belies Center (OVBC) concludes that regardless of political orientation, there is agreement among Oregonians on key public policy issues (e.g., economic system being unfair, need for campaign contribution limits, etc.) .

This memo focuses on what issues and to what extent common ground exists in Oregon. In the following tables, two types of agreement are considered:

  1. Agreement within the sample as a whole (the full subsample of the 2023 Oregon Values and Beliefs
    Study that was used for the cluster analysis);
  2. Agreement between clusters.

Eight clusters or groupings of Oregonians were identified from the cluster analysis. Each consists of Oregonians who share similar values and beliefs related to government, economics, the environment,
and social issues.

  • Cluster 1: Party-Aligned Progressives
  • Cluster 2: Dispassionate Liberals
  • Cluster 3: Alienated Young Left
  • Cluster 4: Green Rural Independents
  • Cluster 5: Diverse and Devout
  • Cluster 6: Disengaged Traditional Conservatives
  • Cluster 7: Free-Market Libertarians
  • Cluster 8: Modern Conservative Loyalists

Characterizing Strong Common Ground


The following tables show inverse values and belief statements. In the table below, the majority of Oregonians strongly agreed on one of the paired statements. We defined strong agreement as 65% of the sample – or higher – strongly agreeing or leaning towards one side of the statements AND at least 4 of the 8 clusters being aligned in that agreement. In other words, the following twelve statements show both 65% majority sample support, and support across at least 4 clusters of Oregonians. Rows are organized from highest to least agreement.

80% of the sample population is in agreement that our national economic system is unfair, with only one of the eight cluster categories showing a faint inclination towards the opposite. Across political hues, most people think the economic system is unfair. This marks a 9% increase in disdain for the economic system compared to the similar 2018 Typology study (shown in the column on the far right of the table), prompting speculation on its potential impact on the current state of support for national leadership despite favorable economic indicators.

Continuing down the list, regulation of campaign contributions earns 78% support. Campaign contributions are notably the only pair among the 21 statements where all clusters from left to right align with the left-leaning perspective. This observation prompts questions about why it took Oregon so long to institute campaign contribution limits, with a new bill getting passed in the most recent 2024 legislative session. Consensus about lax contribution laws also underscores a strong dissatisfaction with the political process.

There is also 75-76% agreement, and unity across six clusters, about changing our way of life to address climate change and valuing compromise in politics.

In terms of social issues, only one cluster leans conservative on topics such as support for abortion and having priorities other than marriage in society. Only two clusters leaned conservative on same gender relationships.

All but one of the statements that show strong agreement were liberal-leaning, the exception was the statement on personal efficacy and people having the power within themselves to succeed in society.

Four items (highlighted in the table) show strong agreement at the sample level, but not across clusters. The topic of “white privilege,” for instance, presents a 4:4 cell standoff, thus showing no cross political agreement. However, among the overall sample there is 79% agreement on this item. Views on poverty, drug addiction, and business profits show strong agreement overall, but have a 5:3 split across clusters. Though with business profits, none show a strong conservative lean (all are under 1.0 on the cluster scale).

Characterizing Moderate Common Ground


There is moderate common ground (50-64% agreement for the full sample) for 4 of the paired statements.

While opposing views are clearly shown in the cluster bookends (C1 and C2), the middle clusters are more variable. On the topic of consumption for example, with a 4:4 split, there is distinct agreement for the liberal view of less consumption, while conservative leanings towards more consumption are not as strong. For values about immigration, women’s equality, and environmental regulations, once again, the far ends disagree as the middle clusters show varying moderate views.

Characterizing Areas of Dissonance


5 out of the 21 typological views lack shared agreement, showing opportunities for further discussion among Oregonians.

Notably, 3 of the 5 contentious questions concern government. Oregonians are more neutral about the role of government in regulating business, with opposing viewpoints (C1/C2 and C7/C8) evenly split and two clusters with a neutral 0.0 score. Views on the size or scope of government are mixed rather than neutral. Perceptions of government performance, however, lean more conservative. In fact, this pair of statements has the highest, or most conservative, mean score of any of the 21 paired statements. Only the statistically powerful C1 prevents overall conservative agreement, and even these progressives lack conviction, with this being their second-most conservative score of any statement pair.

Although only three of the eight clusters oppose banning combat-style firearms, these three clusters (C4, C7, and C8) express strong opposition, with scores of 2.3 or higher. Notably, this represents the most conservative stance for the typically moderate Cluster 4.

Arguably the most contentious of the 21 paired statements concerns perceptions of whether or the United States needs to make changes to ensure Black people have equal rights with white people. Strong feelings and contention are prevalent on both the liberal and conservative sides of the spectrum. Not one single cluster scores between -1.0 and +1.0, and the resulting mean score for the pair is a misleading 0.0. Several clusters score their most liberal or most conservative score for this question, including Clusters 4 and 5, whose scores run contrary to their general political leanings. The subject matter and the pronounced disparity in responses highlights a societal fracture and significant cause for concern.

Conclusion


This summary of the three tables outlining levels of common ground serves as an introduction rather than a conclusive or exhaustive analysis. Its purpose is to introduce the data without implying definitive conclusions, aiming instead to stimulate alternative views and conversations about our collective values and beliefs.

Out of the 21 typological views dealt with here, only 5 are identified as contested territory, suggesting that perceptions of a highly divided culture may be overstated in media or cultural dialogue. This is especially notable considering that 16 out of 21 statements show above 60% agreement. The tables showing Moderate Agreement and Contested Territory, on the other hand show those issues where compromise might be more challenging.

Moreover, of the 21 topic areas, only one is entirely uncontested, and none represents complete consensus. The purpose of researching and reporting this methodology of categorizing ideological distinctions within our culture is to explore how we might redefine our shared purpose amidst a landscape of constant controversy in the news. The key takeaway from analyzing these topics is that there is more common ground than is often perceived, and by leveraging our shared values, we can strive towards a culture of shared purpose and effective solutions.