COVID: August, 2021

Nearly 18 months after Oregon’s first confirmed COVID case, a broad view of Oregonians’ thoughts and beliefs about COVID-19 in their communities.

Face masks

From August 9-17, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ perceptions of COVID-19. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead. It is important to note that the survey was conducted before the Pfizer COVID vaccine received FDA approval, and before many of the mask and vaccine mandates were implemented during August 2021.

The online survey consisted of 1,154 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. This survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.7% to ±2.9% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.

This survey uses 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.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire, which can be downloaded from the bottom of this page (Q1-Q10, Q18-25, Q36, and Q84).

Trustworthy Information

Scientists and doctors are the most trusted sources of information about things like Covid-19 (80%). While science agencies are trusted by many, people are much less likely to rely on these agencies as a first choice (60%) (Q1-10).

  • Even when accounting for ideological differences, media outlets were considered only a mid-tier source in terms of trust. For example, fewer than half of social liberals said NPR-type media was one of their top three sources of information (49%), similar to the proportion of social conservatives who said Fox News-type media sources were a go-to (41%).

Fact, Belief, Concept, or Fiction

While Covid-19 is widely accepted as a fact of life among Oregonians, 6% say it is fiction. An additional 16% prefer to characterize it as a concept or a belief (Q18).

  • About one in three high school graduates say that Covid-19 is a fiction, concept, or belief (32%). By comparison, about one in 10 college graduates say the same (9%).
  • Educational differences are reflected in opinions about Covid-19 in the workforce. Essential workers are less likely to deem Covid-19 a fact (72%), as compared to non-essential workers (82%).

Physical or Emotional Impacts

Five out of six Oregonians have experienced some physical or emotional impacts of Covid-19. A little under half of Oregonians say the impacts have been significant or dramatic (44%) (Q84).

  • About half of essential workers say the physical and emotional toll has been significant or dramatic (49%), whereas people with non-essential jobs were less likely to report significant or dramatic impacts (40%).
  • People under 30 are even more likely to describe themselves as significantly or dramatically impacted (58%).
  • Women are more likely than men to report significant or dramatic impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, by a margin of 16 points (50% to 34%).

Hesitancy About the Vaccine: For Themselves vs. For Their Children

One in six Oregonians say they were initially hesitant to get the vaccine, but they now have it or plan to get it soon (17%) (Q19).

  • Residents under 45 are among the most likely to report having changed their stance on the vaccine (25-26%). High school graduates and social moderates are also more likely to report a change in their attitudes (23%, 26%).
  • One in five Oregonians remains certain of their position that the Covid-19 vaccine isn’t for them (21%). These Oregonians are more likely to be under the age of 55 (23-25%) and socially conservative (41%).

Parents are more hesitant about vaccines for children under 12 than the general population is about vaccines for adults. A little more than half say they vaccinate their young child if an FDA-approved shot were available (56%) (Q24).

  • Parents under 30 were less likely to say they had given an FDA-approved vaccine to a young child (36%), reflecting differences in vaccines by age in general. Parents under 30 are more likely to have infants and toddlers.
  • The educational attainment of parents also presented stark differences. While 39% of high school graduates say they would vaccinate a young child for Covid-19, that figure rises to 55% for those with some college and 75% for those with degrees.

Half of parents say their children will attend school only in person this fall (50%). While some say it will be a hybrid model (11%), even more say they will home-school (13%) (Q25).

  • Homeschooling is more common among two disparate groups: parents in the Portland tri-county area (18%) and parents who are socially conservative (26%).

Vaccine Mandates: Medical Facilities, Employees, and Customers

Despite an Oregon law to the contrary, 70% of residents think medical facilities, including nursing homes, should be allowed to require employees to get vaccinated (Q22).

More than half of Oregonians—and essential workers—think businesses should be allowed to mandate whether employees or customers are vaccinated. There is more support for employee mandates (66%) than for customer mandates (55%) (Q20-21).

  • While a majority of essential workers support these measures, these workers are less supportive than non-essential workers overall, especially when it comes to ensuring customers follow the mandate (51%).

Optimism for the Future

All in all, many people are hopeful that humans can successfully solve the challenge of communicable diseases like Covid-19. Half of Oregonians say humans have a good chance of being successful in this endeavor, or that we will certainly beat these diseases (52%) (Q36).

  • The pessimism of Gen Z—a generation coming of age amid climate change and a historic pandemic—shows through when it comes to the outlook on controlling the spread of disease. Fewer than half of people under 30 say humans have a good chance or better of succeeding on this front (49%). Meanwhile, two-thirds of seniors 75 and older say we have a fighting chance (67%).

Demographic Trends

Identifying what unites us, understanding what divides us.

Reported below are statistically significant subgroup differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians, and urban and rural Oregonians.  Many of these differences are not major and are presented to inform public education and communications initiatives. 

  • The US has a long history of medical racism. This history may impact differences in attitudes about Covid-19 and vaccines between white residents and people of color. This survey finds that nearly one in three BIPOC residents in Oregon would characterize Covid-19 as a fiction, concept, or belief rather than a fact (29%) compared to white residents (21%) (Q18).
  • BIPOC Oregonians are more likely than white Oregonians to report a dramatic impact on their physical and emotional well-being because of the Covid-19 pandemic (26% to 16%) (Q84). 
  • People who originally were hesitant to get the vaccine are changing their minds (Q19).
    • BIPOC Oregonians are one of the groups most likely to have changed their stance. One in four say they have since been vaccinated or plan to get the jab soon (24%).
    • Rural residents, and those in rural areas changing to suburban, are among the most likely to remain firm in their view that the vaccine is not for them (32%, 28%). These areas are among the hardest hit by Covid-19 today.
  • Opinions among parents about whether to vaccinate children under 12 for Covid-19 when an FDA-approved vaccine becomes available are vastly different by area. While seven in ten urban parents say they would choose vaccination (71%), fewer than three in ten rural parents say they would (27%) (Q24).
    • BIPOC parents are a little more likely to express hesitancy about vaccinating young children than white parents (40% to 32%).
  • Despite some shifts among BIPOC Oregonians in vaccine hesitancy, BIPOC residents remain less likely to support healthcare vaccine mandates overall (Q20-22).
    • The largest difference between BIPOC residents and white residents is on the issue of vaccine mandates for employees of medical facilities (62% to 71%).
    • BIPOC residents are also slightly less likely than white residents to support business mandates for employees and customers, by a margin of 4 to 6 points.  

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (

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