Direction, Most Important Issue, and Common Ground

Oregonians’ share their beliefs and attitudes about Oregon’s direction, finding common ground, and identifying the most important issue we’re facing.

From September 13-21, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including the most important issue, beliefs and attitudes about Oregon, finding common ground, and their community broadly. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire (Q1-3,Q9-11,Q38). 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. Subgroup variations between BIPOC and white Oregonians; rural and urban residents; and between age groups have been of particular interest to individuals and organizations and are provided in the Demographic Trends section below.

Oregonians Remain Divided Over the Direction of The State

Oregonians remain divided over the direction of the state, with a slim majority saying we’re off on the wrong track (51%). 42% of Oregonians say we’re headed in the right direction, and 7% aren’t sure (Q1).

The percentage of Oregonians who say our state is on the wrong track has remained relatively stable over the past two years, hovering right around 50%, with 53% in January, 2022[1], 49% in September of 2021[2], and 52% in December of 2020[3].
  • There are few differences between demographic subgroups in the rate at which they say we’re headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track.
  • Men (54%) are more likely than women (49%) to say things are off on the wrong track.
  • Republicans are especially likely to say the state is on the wrong track (81%), including 61% who say we’re on the wrong track, strongly. Slightly more than half of those not registered with either of the major parties (55%), and fewer than one-third of registered Democrats think we’re on the wrong track (31%).
  • The majority of Oregonians with some or no college experience say we’re on the wrong track (high school diploma or less: 51%; some college: 56%). Conversely, about the same number of college graduates say we’re headed in the right direction (51%).
  • More Oregonians with school-aged children living in their home say we’re on the wrong track (56%), but even 50% of those without school-aged children say the same.
  • Middle-income earners are more likely to say Oregon is on the wrong track ($50K-$100K:58%) compared to those earning less (under $50K: 47%) and those earning more ($100K or more: 50%).

Oregonians are United in Their Worry About the Future

While Oregonians are split as to the direction of the state, they are much more united in their worry about the future of their area of Oregon. 75% say they are somewhat (40%) or very (35%) worried. A mere 4% say they are not at all worried, and 18% say they are not too worried (Q2).

  • Overall, the percentage of those who say they’re worried is nearly identical to when Oregonians were asked the same question in the April of 2022[4] OVBC survey, but there has been a slight increase in those who say they are very worried, from 30% in April to 35% in September.
  • A considerable majority of both men and women are worried, although women are a bit more likely to say they’re worried (women: 80%; men: 71%).
  • Renters are more worried about the future compared to Oregonians who own their homes by a narrow but significant margin (79% vs. 74%).
  • Interestingly, Oregonians in the middle income bracket, making $50,000 to $100,000 per year, are more worried about the future than those in highest and lowest income brackets ($50K-$100K: 79%; less than $50K: 74%; $100K or more: 72%).
  • Oregonians in the Willamette Valley are a bit less worried than residents in other areas (tri-county: 77%; Rest of state: 76%).
  • Political ideology is correlated with level of worry. Republicans (84%) and people who identify as economically or socially conservative (83%;87%) are more worried than Democrats (70%) and economic and social liberals (69%;68%). People not registered with one of the two major parties (78%) and economic and social moderates land somewhere in between (76%;78%).

Homelessness is the Most Important Issue

Respondents were given the opportunity to share, in their own words, the most important issue for elected leaders to address. Among the top issues, several tiers emerge:

  • Homelessness is the top-tier issue for Oregonians and is cited as the most important issue by every single demographic (37%) (Q3).
  • Little has changed in the past few months. In an April 20224 survey, 35% said homelessness needed to be addressed, followed by affordable housing (13%), and crime (11%).
  • Tri-County residents are especially likely to say homelessness is most important to address (47%), compared Willamette Valley residents (36%) and other parts of the state (29%)
  • People who do not have school-aged children living with them are more likely than those with children to cite homelessness as most important (40% vs. 33%).
  • 45% of Oregonians making at least $100K per year mention homelessness, compared to 39% of those making $50K to $100K, and 35% of those making less than $50K.

“Helping all the homeless people out. Help find a place for the people that are homeless that actually want the help. People like myself.”

Woman, age 30-44, Malheur County, white

“I have never been threatened by the homeless but recognize that it is an issue that demands action. While there are other issues that will influence my vote at other levels, this is the primary issue at the local level.”

Man, age 55-64, Multnomah County, white

“Give the homeless a place to stay, make it easier for them.”

Man, age 18-29, Lane County, Black or African American

“Help the homeless population and help with affordable housing.”

Woman, age 55-64, Lane County, white

“Homeless/drug/mental health and climate change.”

Woman, age 45-54, Jackson County, Asian

Housing, Crime, and Safety are Also Important Issues

  • The second tier is comprised of the second- and third-most mentioned issues: housing/affordable housing (15%), and crime and safety (12%).
  • Women say housing needs to be addressed more often than men do (17% vs. 12%).
  • Renters are more concerned about housing than homeowners (18% vs. 11%), and homeowners are more concerned about crime than renters (homeowners:15%; renters:10%).
  • People with at least some time in college are more likely to mention housing (16%-17%) or crime (13%-14%) as most important compared to those without any time in college (HS or less:11% and 9%).
  • People making more than $50K per year are more likely to mention crime (14%) than people making under $50K (9%).
  • Of these two issues, Democrats and liberals say housing is most important (19%-21%) while Republicans and conservatives say crime is most important (19%-21%), and those not affiliated with either party and moderates are split between the two issues (housing:13%-14%; crime:11%-15%).

“Affordable housing is an emergency situation and needs common sense solutions now, not in another 10 years.”

Woman, age 65-74, Lincoln County, white

“Affordable housing and cost of living.”

Man, age 18-29, Lane County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native and white

“Incentivize programs to build/finance affordable housing for existing residents and charge higher prices to those moving here under urban flight.”

Woman, age 30-44, Klamath County, Prefers not to disclose race/ethnicity

“Crime and homelessness.”

Woman, age 30-44, Deschutes County, white

“Crime and cleanliness of the city; the garbage and filth are unacceptable. Also, the homelessness which is directly tied to everything, and the cost of housing and rent is completely out of control.”

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

“Crime and drug trafficking and sex trafficking.”

Woman, age 55-64, Lake County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native and white

Addiction and Prices/Inflation are Important Issues

A third tier contains the issues ranking fourth and fifth among the issues cited as most important: addiction, substance abuse, and drugs (8%), and cost of living, prices, and inflation (6%). Drugs and addiction are mentioned at a similar rate across demographic subgroups with a few exceptions, while much more variation is found among those who cite inflation and cost of living as most important.

Renters mention addiction and drugs more often than homeowners (10% vs. 7%), and those with a high school education or less place more importance on addressing addiction and drugs than do those with at least some college experience (10% vs. 6%-8%).

The issues of inflation, cost of living, and prices are much more important to people with a high school education than their peers with at least some college education (10% vs. 3%-4%).

Oregonians living in the Willamette Valley (8%), Republicans (8%), renters (8%), and people with school-aged children (9%) are more likely than their counterparts to say addressing inflation and cost of living are most important.

“Inflation needs to be addressed as well as the homelessness issue.”

Man, age 30-44, Washington County, white

“Addressing the high cost of living and inflation; housing (building affordable housing, rent caps, rental assistance programs, addressing homelessness); infrastructure; crime.”

Woman, age 18-29, Multnomah County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native

“The epidemic of drug use in the state.”

Man, age 45-54, Josephine County, Asian

“Cost of living and rent prices are off the charts.”

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

“Increased services and mandatory treatment for mental health and drug and alcohol addiction. Make drug or drug paraphernalia possession after third ticket a mandatory treatment sentence. Bring back measure 11 as voted for by the public.”

Man, age 65-74, Linn County, white

“Drugs, homelessness, and mental health.”

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

“Homelessness, drug abuse, public safety (more police) and law enforcement.”

Man, age 65-74, Multnomah County, white

More Issues Oregon is Facing

Other issues that ranked among the top ten most important include climate change (5%); government policy/spending (5%); mental health (4%); income inequality and wages (4%); and police (4%). A full listing can be found in the annotated questionnaire and crosstabs.

For many Oregonians, the most important issues for elected leaders are interrelated and emotionally charged, as illustrated by their word-for-word responses (Q3 & Q38):

“I think the majority of issues could be summed up with income inequality. The lack/cost of housing is at the core of the homeless crisis. The lack of mental healthcare and addiction resources fueling the increasing crime. People are desperate and desperate people do desperate things.”

Man, age 45-54, Multnomah County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x

“Homelessness and affordable housing need to be top priority as well as having wages actually match inflation. How does anyone afford anything in this town?”

Woman, age 18-29, Lane County, white

“High housing rent, high cost of living and rising goods, the wage shortage remains unchanged, and the pressure is enormous.”

Woman, age 30-44, Deschutes County, Black or African American

“I feel that our country is going down the wrong path. We are changing our country to a socialist country. We need to re-energize creative thinking and get off our current woke thinking.”

Man, age 75+, Marion County, white

Opinions on Taxes and Funding Public Services

When it comes taxes and funding public services, Oregonians are split as to whether we don’t spend enough and should increase some taxes (30%), we spend about the right amount and taxes should stay the same (30%), or we spend too much on public services and taxes to support existing services should be reduced (26%). 14% of Oregonians just aren’t sure (Q9).

  • Oregonians’ feelings about spending on public services, and associated taxes, have remained relatively stable over time. In the 2013 Oregon Values and Beliefs Study[5], 28% of Oregonians said we weren’t spending enough and some taxes should increase; 31% said we spend about the right amount; and 30% said we were spending too much and taxes to support existing services should be reduced. A larger shift occurred between the 2013 OVB Study and the 2002 Oregon Values and Beliefs Study[6], when 22% said we don’t spend enough, 44% said we spend the right amount, and 28% said we spend too much. There has been an increase over time in the number of people who say they aren’t sure, from 6% in 2002, to 10% in 2013, and 14% in 2022.
  • People with some college education (29%-43%) are more likely to say we do not spend enough on public services than those without (20%), while those with some or no college (27%-29%) are more likely than those with a 4-year degree to say we spend too much (20%).
  • People with annual incomes of $100K or more are more likely than their counterparts to say we spend about the right amount on public services (34% vs. 27%-30%).
  • Men feel more strongly that we spend too much on public services and taxes should be reduced (31%) compared to women (21%).
  • People who own their homes are more likely than those who rent to say we spend the right amount on public services (32% vs. 26%) or we spend too much, and taxes should be lowered (28% vs. 23%).

What Can We Agree On?

Despite disagreement about the state’s direction, concern about the future, a host of challenges, and a lack of consensus on taxes and funding public services, most Oregonians believe there are things that all Oregonians value about living in Oregon that cut across political divides and represent common ground we can stand on together to make our state a better place (65%). One in five aren’t sure (21%) and 14% don’t believe there are things that Oregonians all value that can bring us together (Q10).

These findings are similar to those from the OVBC September 20212 survey, with a slight increase in those who say there are things we all value from 60% in September 2021 to 65% in September 2022, a slight decrease in those who just aren’t sure (27% in 2021; 21% in 2022), and virtually no change in those who don’t think we have shared values that can cut across divides (13% in 2021; 14% in 2022).

Across all demographic groups, a strong majority believe there are commonalities we can build on, although those with high annual income ($100K+:70%); some college or a 4-year degree (66-69%); and those with school-aged children (70%) are especially likely to agree.

When given the opportunity to comment on the values and beliefs that may unite us, Oregonians allude to many of the same issues described as most important in Q3, like homelessness and crime, as well as enjoying and preserving the natural beauty of our state:

“Putting the environment first is a very common value and belief of a lot of Oregonians.”

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

“Homelessness, inflation, cost of living, women’s rights, racial equality.”

Man, age 18-29, Multnomah County, white

“Conservationists tend to fall on both sides of the political divide. For example, hunters/fishermen want the environment to be good as well. Another example is road upkeep. Everyone wants to avoid potholes or bridge collapse.”

Woman, age 30-44, Washington County, Black or African American

“Enjoyment of natural beauty (albeit in different ways); concern about the increasing visibility of homeless camps.”

Man, age 45-54, Washington County, Asian and white

“We love the beauty of nature and friendly neighborhoods. We all want to see crime reduced and our streets safer. We want homelessness discouraged by stopping the trafficking drugs, removing the camps in our neighborhoods, and providing rehab resources for addicts.”

Woman, age 55-64, Multnomah County, White

“Water resources. A large determinate to the viability of a region and to its sustainability for both the environment and the people living and working there.”

Man, age 65-74, Union County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native

“Safety and the rule of law. Freedom. Protect children, prioritize parents.”

Woman, age 65-74, Benton County, White

“Maintain the beauty of the state and keep it safe from violence and fires.”

Woman, age 75+, Clackamas County, White

“Our love of our state’s natural beauty and environmental assets, and our support for small-farm agriculture and small businesses.”

Man, age 75+, Polk County, white

Demographic Trends

Identifying what unites us, understanding what divides us.

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

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.

  • Rural Oregonians are more likely than urban Oregonians to think that Oregon is off track (56% to 46%) (Q1), although there are no significant differences in rural and urban Oregonians’ worry about the future of their area (60%; 80%) (Q2).
    • Urban Oregonians are more likely to think that Oregon is headed in the right direction (47% compared to 36% of rural Oregonians) (Q1).
  • Rural and urban Oregonians prioritize the same 10 issues as being most important for elected leaders to address (Q3).
    • Urban Oregonians are almost twice as likely to be concerned about homelessness than rural Oregonians, although homelessness is still the top priority for rural Oregonians (urban: 47%; rural: 27%) (Q3).
  • Rural residents are more likely than urban residents to say we spend too much on public services (rural: 32%; urban: 22%), while urban residents feel more strongly that we don’t spend enough on public services and that some taxes should be increased (urban: 36%; rural: 25%) (Q9).
    • More rural Oregonians than urban Oregonians feel uncertain about the level of spending (rural: 19%; urban: 13%).
  • Despite the oft-mentioned urban-rural divide, rural and urban Oregonians alike believe we share some common ground we can build on (rural: 62%; urban: 64%) (Q10):

“A “live and let live” mentality–toleration of everybody’s differences. Independence. Love of nature.”

Woman, age 45-54, Yamhill County, white

“All of us are concerned about the environment and love the physical attributes of the area such as rivers, forests, mountains, etc.”

Woman, age 55-64, Multnomah County, white

  • Oregonians aged 55-64 have a particularly gloomy view of how things are going in our state. They are the age group most likely to say we’re off on the wrong track (58%, including 38% strongly) and most likely to say they’re worried about the future of their area of Oregon (81%, including 42% strongly) (Q1,Q2).
  • There are considerable differences by age as to which issues are most important to address, although homelessness remains the top issue across all age groups (Q3).
    • Compared to those aged 74 and younger, Oregonians over 75 are much less worried about housing affordability than (8% vs. 14%-16%). Crime and safety (20%) and climate change (10%) rate higher than housing affordability among the list of concerns for this older age group.
    • Oregonians under the age of 45 are less concerned about crime and safety compared to those 45 and older (5%-7% vs. 14%-20%).
    • 18-29-year-olds are especially worried about cost of living (10% vs. 1%-6%); behind homelessness (35%) and housing affordability (14%), it is the third most-mentioned concern for their age demographic.
    • Overall, mental health is a top-10 issue for Oregonians (4%), but 45–54-year-olds are particularly concerned: 9% cite mental health as most important compared to 2% to 4% of other age groups.
  • Age has some influence on perceptions of spending on public services, and the taxes that pay for those services. Most age groups say we’re not spending enough on public services (30%-33%), but 45-54-year-olds say we’re spending too much (32%), and 18-29-year-olds say we spend about the right amount (34%) (Q10).
    • Nearly one-in-five Oregonians under 30 say they aren’t sure how they feel about spending and associated taxes (18% compared to 10%-15%).
  • Confidence in our shared values is highest among 45-54-year-olds (70%), but a majority of all age groups believe we have some common ground (Q10).
    • 18-29-year-olds are more pessimistic than older Oregonians, with 17% saying they flat-out do not think we have any common values, and 24% saying they aren’t sure. 55-74-year-olds share this pessimism, but to a lesser degree (no: 16%-17%; don’t know: 20%-23%).

“Commonality and shared values among Oregonians were never worse. Incessant, divisive, and corrosive barrages from local right-wing radio, social media/Facebook campaigns, propaganda organizations, etc. all contribute to invitations to tribal warfare”

Man, age 18-29, Multnomah County, white

“Appreciation for and reasonable access to beautiful public lands. Providing a quality education system for youth, college age and professional development- let’s care for, educate and train fellow Oregonians to continue positive contribution to our communities, economy, business/industry and environment.”

Woman, age 45-54, Polk County, white

  • There are no significant differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians as to whether Oregon is headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track (45%, 42% and 48%, 52%), or in how worried they are about the future of their area of Oregon (very/somewhat: 73%, 76%) (Q1,Q2).
  • BIPOC and white Oregonians say the same issues are most important to address, although white Oregonians are a bit more likely to mention homelessness (white: 40%; BIPOC: 33%), and BIPOC Oregonians are slightly more likely to mention income inequality and wages (BIPOC: 7%; white: 3%) (Q3).
  • BIPOC Oregonians generally say we spend about the right amount on public services (34% compared to 29% of white Oregonians), but white Oregonians generally say we don’t spend enough (32% compared to 24%) (Q9).
    • BIPOC Oregonians are more likely than white Oregonians to say they aren’t sure whether we spend enough or too much (18% vs. 13%).

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,878 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. 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.

Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error for the full sample ±2.47%. Due to rounding or multiple answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.


[1] Survey conducted January 13-20, 2022; OVBC; N= 1,400; Q9

[2] Survey conducted September 14-22, 2021; OVBC; N= 1,124; Q1

[3] Survey conducted December 4-8, 2020; DHM and OVBC; N= 615, Q27

[4] Survey conducted April 8-14, 2022; OVBC; N= 1,581

[5] Survey conducted April and May 2013; DHM Research; N=1,714

[6] Survey conducted November 2002; DHM Research; N=1,316