Oregon’s Direction, the Coronavirus, and the Economy

Are Oregonians more or less concerned about community health, the economy, and personal finances compared to previous months?

image: storefront sign "open, thank you for keeping your distance"

From September 14-22, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead.

The online survey consisted of 1,124 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. This survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.8% 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, available for download at the bottom of the page (Q1-9).

Right Direction or Wrong Track?

Oregonians’ opinions on the direction of our state have returned to the more pessimistic lows of last winter. About half of Oregonians say things in the state are headed off on the wrong track (49%). Nearly as many say things are headed in the right direction (45%), and the rest aren’t sure (Q1).

  • These results are almost identical to December 2020 (52% wrong track)[1] and February 2021 (49% wrong track)[2], and show increased pessimism from May 2021 (42% wrong track, 49% right direction)[3].
  • The youngest and oldest Oregon adults are the most optimistic. Among people under 30, half say things are headed in the right direction (50%). Among people 75 and older, 60% say things are headed in the right direction.

Coronavirus Concerns

When thinking about coronavirus, concerns about community health remain high, whereas concerns about personal health have fallen slightly since last summer (Q2-4).

More than three-quarters of Oregonians say they are somewhat or very concerned about the health of their communities regarding coronavirus, a figure essentially unchanged since July 2020 (77% to 78%)[4] (Q4). 

  • Levels of concern are similar across the state, irrespective of region (75% to 78%).

Meanwhile, 60% of Oregonians say they are concerned about their own health when it comes to coronavirus, a figure just slightly lower than in July 2020 (63%)4 (Q2).

  • Concern is higher among vulnerable, older age groups than among young people: 68% of people 75 and older say they are concerned, compared to 51% of people under 30.

Concerns about the economy vis-à-vis coronavirus remain. All in all, Oregonians are more concerned about Covid-19’s impact on the economy than their individual health—but concern doesn’t mean the economy is in bad shape (Q5).

  • More than eight in ten Oregonians say they are somewhat or very concerned about the economy in the wake of coronavirus (84%), a figure that has slipped only slightly since July 2020 (87%)[4].
  • People of all social ideologies share concerns about the economy (81% to 93%). This marks a difference from health concerns, about which liberals are significantly more concerned.

Oregon’s Economy

Oregonians are evenly split as to whether the state’s economy is good or poor. While 45% say it is good or very good, 44% say it is poor or very poor (Q6).

  • Overall positivity about the state’s economy has increased 15 percentage points since the beginning of the pandemic. In April 2021[5] and June of 2020[6], 30% of Oregonians said the economy was good or very good.
  • Men are much more likely than women to report good economic conditions (53% to 37%).
  • Perceptions of economic conditions may be colored by one’s own financial standing or career path. People with household incomes of $100,000 or more were the most likely of any group to rate Oregon’s conditions as good or very good (69%), compared to people with lower incomes (33-47%).
  • Similarly, college graduates have a more positive outlook, and two-thirds say the state’s economy is good or very good (65%), compared to less than half of people with less education (33-40%).

Personal Financial Situation

While ratings of the state’s economy have grown more positive, many Oregonians remain worried about their own finances. More than half now say they are somewhat or very worried about their personal financial situation (53%) (Q9).

  • While overall sentiment has remained roughly the same over the past year, the figure representing those worried about their finances has increased from 16% in June 2020 to 19% in October 2020[7] to 21% today.
  • Women are nearly twice as likely to express deep worry than men (27% to 15%).
  • Regarding those who described themselves as very worried about their finances, there is no notable difference between households with children and without (20%, 21%).
  • Millennials and Gen X say they’ve been hit hard. About one-third of Oregonians ages 30-54 say they are very worried about their financial situation (30-34%).

People outside the Portland tri-county region are more likely to say they are struggling financially (Q9).

  • Fewer than half of residents in the tri-county region say they are somewhat or very worried about their financial situation (47%). Meanwhile, in the Willamette Valley, that figure stands at 61%. In other reaches of the state, it sits at 57%.
  • Tri-county residents are also the most likely to say they aren’t worried at all about their financial situation (21%), almost double the rate for people in the valley or elsewhere in the state (12-13%).

Opening Oregon’s Economy

Few Oregonians believe the economy is “fully restarted” since the pandemic began (13%) (Q7).

  • Those who believe this are more likely to be under 30, have college degrees and have high incomes (18-19%).

About one in five Oregonians feel an urgency to “open everything up and restart the economy” (Q8).

  • In June 2020[6], when many businesses were still closed and fewer people were sick in the ICU with Covid-19, more than one-fifth of Oregonians said they felt it was time to open back up (21%). Yet, even then, more than half felt it was not safe yet (55%).
  • Now, many businesses have re-opened with restrictions, and the proportion of Oregonians eager to open back up has remained mostly stable (19%). Still, 56% say it is better to stay safe and wait.
  • Men are more likely than women to say that things should open back up, by a margin of ten points (42% to 32%).
  • Renters—who might approximate essential workers—are among the least eager to open back up (despite few differences by age). Just 28% say it is time to fully re-open, compared to 43% of homeowners.

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. 

BIPOC and white residents are equally likely to say things in Oregon are headed in the right direction (45%) (Q1).

  • By area, rural Oregonians are much more wary. More than half (57%) say things are off on the wrong track. Meanwhile, about half of urbanites say things are headed in the right direction (49%).

Rural and urban residents are about equally likely to express concern about the health of their communities when it comes to coronavirus, with urban residents ever so slightly more concerned (74% to 79%) (Q4).

  • There is similarly almost no difference between rural and urban residents regarding concern about the economy in the wake of Covid-19 (85% to 83%) (Q5).

White residents are somewhat more concerned about the economy than BIPOC residents (86% to 74%). This figure could reflect partisan differences.

Rural areas of the state have been hit especially hard by the painful impacts of the pandemic, drought, and wildfires. More than half of rural Oregonian’s rate economic conditions as poor or very poor (57%) (Q6).  

  • For urban and suburban areas, that figure floats between 38% and 41%.

BIPOC Oregonians are more likely to express worry over their personal financial situation (Q9).

  • Two-thirds of BIPOC residents say they are somewhat or very worried about their personal financial situation (66%), compared to about half of white residents (52%).
  • BIPOC and white residents rate economic conditions nearly identically (Q6).

Half of rural respondents say it is time to open everything back up and restart the state’s economy (49%). They are joined by fewer than one in three urbanites (29%) (Q8).

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 (www.oregonvbc.org).

For More Information

[1] Survey conducted December 4-8, 2020; OVBC; n=615

[2] Survey conducted February 11-17, 2021; OVBC; n=600

[3] Survey conducted May 4-10, 2021; OVBC; n=918

[4] Survey conducted July 14-22, 2020; DHM Research; n=603

[5] Survey conducted April 1-6, 2021; OVBC; n=600

[6] Survey conducted May 29-June 7, 2020; DHM Research; n=900

[7] Survey conducted October 1-6, 2020; OVBC; n=600