Oregon’s Political Leadership

What do Oregonians want from their political leadership? How optimistic are they that progress can be made in the 2022 legislative session?

Oregon State Capital

From January 13-20, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including three questions about Oregon’s political leadership. We’d like to acknowledge and thank DHM Research for providing us with baseline questions benchmarked to determine changes in attitudes over time.  The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire (Q15-17).

The online survey consisted of 1,400 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Demographic quotas and statistical weighting were used to ensure a representative sample. Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.6% to ±2.6%. 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 was 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.

Do Oregonians Believe Progress Can Be Made During the 2022 Legislative Session?

Oregonians are not overly optimistic that the legislature and Governor will be able to make significant progress on the key issues facing Oregon during the 2022 Oregon Legislative session. Two-thirds of Oregonians (63%) say they are not very/not at all optimistic and one-third (31%) are very/somewhat optimistic (Q15).

  • Oregonians with at least a four-year degree tend to have the most optimism overall (34% vs. 27-32% very/somewhat combined), although those with a high school education or less are the most likely to say they are very optimistic (9% vs 4% each).
  • Optimism tends to increase with higher levels of income.

This is a sharp decline in optimism from 10 years ago when a statewide survey of Oregonians found that 55% were very/somewhat optimistic that the legislature and Governor would be able to make significant progress, compared to 41% who were not[1].

In Their Own Words: Why Are Oregonians Optimistic or Pessimistic About the 2022 Legislative Session?

Oregonians were provided the opportunity to respond in their own words as to why they feel optimistic or not about the prospects of the legislature and the Governor making progress during the 2022 Oregon Legislative session. Below is a representative sample of quotes from respondents not feeling optimistic, with the key themes being concern over lack of compromise, political polarization, and a feeling that politicians are out of touch with everyday Oregonians (Q15a).

“Oregon doesn’t seem to focus on issues that everyday people are worried about.”

Female, age 18-29, Yamhill County, Native American or American Indian and White

“Partisanship and winning elections will be the key driver of what happens in the 2022 session.”

Male, age 18-29, Linn County, White

“A vocal minority brings things to a complete halt when they don’t get their way. How could we feel optimistic.”

Female, age 30-44, Washington County, Middle Eastern or North African and White

“There will never be any hope for good results from the government so long as we have a first-past-the-post voting system. It will always be dominated by the two major parties, both of which are irredeemably corrupt.”

Male, age 30-44, Lane County, White

“I’m hopeful they can, but I’m sure Republicans will pull more “we’re just going to run away rather than actually try to negotiate” stunts, which will kill some progress.”

Female, age 45-54, Multnomah County, Asian or Pacific Islander

“The Oregon state has shown their willingness to take up issues that are only important to the most liberal progressive minority of the population while acting as though they care about the health and happiness of the ordinary working class who don’t have pronouns and aren’t protesting for social justice.”

Male, age 45-54, Multnomah County, Asian or Pacific Islander

“The only difference is everyone will be grandstanding, hoping to make points with their base of voters. I expect more of what we’ve seen in the last few sessions. Some work will get done, mostly along party lines, but I’m not sure any of the “big issues” will be dealt with.”

Male, age 55-64, Clackamas County, Other race or ethnicity

“Short session, too divided.”

Female, age 55-64, Douglas County, White

“Too much party politics without regard for what the PEOPLE in this state want or need.”

Female, age 65-74, Multnomah County, Native American or American Indian

“As long as the Republicans are allowed to shut down the Senate by walking off the job, nothing will get accomplished. As long as Brown is governor, nothing will get accomplished.”

Non-binary or gender non-confirming, age 65-74, Washington County, Middle Eastern or North African and Slavic

“Win at all costs politics determines all, especially in an election year.”

Male, age 75+, Clatsop County, White

“There is enough money in this country that most problems could be solved IF we agree on the problems and IF we agreed on who’s responsible and what the role of government is at different levels, and IF we had responsible leaders who could move us forward.”

Female, age 75+, Lincoln County, Other race or ethnicity

What Do Oregonians Want From Their Political Leaders: Compromise or Sticking To Their Beliefs?

Oregonians were asked, using a scale of 1 to 5, if it is more important for political leaders to compromise to get things done (1) or if it is more important for political leaders to stick to their beliefs, even if little gets done (5). Respondents are twice as likely to prioritize compromise (47% ratings of 1 or 2) then sticking to one’s beliefs, even if little gets done (22% ratings of 4 or 5) (Q16).

  • The prioritization of compromise tended to increase with higher income and education levels.

  • This is consistent with findings from a January 2019 study which found that by a nearly three-to-one margin, Oregonians preferred their political leaders in Salem compromise rather than stick to their beliefs (41% vs. 15%)[2].

The Qualities Oregonians Want In Their Governor

Oregonians were asked to choose the most important quality for Oregon’s governor to possess (Q17). From the provided list, the highest-rated qualities are:

  • Cares about average Oregonians (36%)
  • Is honest (20%)
  • Has good leadership skills (16%)
  • Is levelheaded (9%)
  • Is intelligent (7%)
  • Has the right kind of experience (7%)

Caring and honesty are the most important qualities for all demographic subgroups except for the oldest Oregonians and those with a college degree who both rank good leadership skills as the second most important quality after caring about the average Oregonian.

When asked in January 2019, Oregonians also chose caring and honesty as their top qualities for Oregon’s governor, but the popularity of these qualities was reversed. 47% of Oregonians said honesty was the most important quality, and 24% said caring about average Oregonians.  The difference may be explained by 2019 asking about caring for “Americans” rather than “Oregonians.”

Demographic Trends

Identifying what unites us, understanding what divides us.

  • Oregonians of color and whites share roughly the same middling level of optimism that the legislature and Governor will be able to make significant progress on the key issues during the 2022 Oregon Legislative session (34% and 31%, respectively). They also share similar feelings about the most important qualities Oregon’s governor should have: caring about average Oregonians and being honest (Q15, Q17)
  • Oregonians of color are somewhat more likely to want their political leaders to stick to their beliefs than whites with twice as many choosing 5 on the 1 (more important to compromise) to 5 (more important to stick to beliefs) scale (15% vs 7%). 

  • Urban Oregonians are more likely than their rural counterparts to think the legislature and Governor will be able to make significant progress during the 2022 session (38% vs. 23%) (Q15).
  • Urban, suburban, and rural Oregonians show nearly identical agreement that it is more important for political leaders to compromise to get things done than that it is for them to stick to their beliefs, even if little gets done – by a roughly two-to-one margin (Q16). Interestingly, Oregonians who live in areas described as rural changing to suburban are significantly more likely to say compromise is more important (55% vs. 44-47%, combined 1 and 2 scores).

  • The priority placed on compromise increases with age, from 38% among those ages 18-29 to 58% among those ages 75 and older (Q16).

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 January 19-25, 2012; DHM Research and OPB; N=500.
[2] Survey conducted January, 2019; DHM Research; N=552

Analysis and Reporting by: Ari Wubbold