Policing and Public Safety

Funding for police departments has become a very controversial topic, but when it comes to accountability measures, Oregonians are largely on the same page.

Image: police lightbar

From June 8th through 14th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including their thoughts about policing and public safety. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead.

This online survey consisted of 1400 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Responses were analyzed and categorized to allow for a better understanding of trends in Oregonians’ values and beliefs. The survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.6% to ±2.6% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

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 size permits reliability.

Findings will include a citation of the relevant question, which can be referenced in the annotated questionnaire and tabs at the bottom of the page.

Reducing vs. Increasing Funding

  • Police funding is about as divisive a topic as can be found among Oregonians: Just over half of residents want to see police funding cut in favor of social programs like counseling, education, and housing (53%), while nearly half say they support increasing funding so that local police departments may expand their presence (49%) (Q25, Q35).
    • The proportion of Oregonians who strongly support cutting funding for police (32%) is fairly on par with the proportion who strongly oppose cutting funding (27%) (Q25).
    • Support for cutting police budgets is highest among Oregonians 18 to 29 (61%) and declines consistently with age, down to 39% of Oregonians 75 and older (Q25).

Eliminating Police Departments, Funding Alternatives

  • In the wake of the George Floyd protests of 2020, calls for “abolition” of police departments increased, especially on social media. Among Oregonians broadly, this call represents a minority view today. More than one-quarter of Oregonians support the idea at least somewhat (27%), while 12% say they strongly support eliminating the police department and creating alternatives (12%) (Q26).
    • Oregonians under 30 demonstrate the strongest support for eliminating the police department and creating alternatives (45%) (Q26).

Broad Support for Accountability

  • Many proposed measures to improve accountability for police are much less divisive, and indeed garner broad support from Oregonians. The single most favored accountability measure is to ensure police officers hold each other accountable.
    • Nearly nine in ten Oregonians support requiring police to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to their supervisor (88%). This figure includes 68% of Oregonians who strongly support eliminating this so-called thin blue line (Q31).
    • Similarly, 79% of Oregonians support requiring officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against a civilian. More than half of Oregonians strongly support this idea (56%) (Q33).
  • Other types of accountability measures earn majority support as well, particularly those which seek to regulate police behavior. More than eight in ten residents support recording interactions with the public to the greatest extent possible (82%), and three-quarters of Oregonians support banning chokeholds (75%) (Q34, Q27).
    • About three-quarters of Oregonians of every economic ideology (liberal, moderate, and conservative) support recording police interactions when feasible (75-92%) (Q34).
    • More than half of Oregonians of every economic ideology (liberal, moderate, and conservative) support eliminating the use of chokeholds (55-90%) (Q27).

Demographic Trends

Identifying what unites us, understanding what divides us.

  • As divisive as police funding is among Oregonians overall, support for cutting police funding in favor of social programs is very similar among Oregonians who identify as white and those who identify as people of color (aggregated) (52%, 56%). However, disaggregated race data could show differences between white people and other races (Q25).
  • Support for banning the use of chemical agents such as tear gas and pepper bullets is significantly higher in urban areas (54%) than in suburban, rural, or in-between areas (37-44%). Urban residents may be more familiar with the effects of tear gas and pepper bullets, or they are more attuned to the frequency with which it has been used (in urban areas) over the past year (Q28).
  • From Portland to Bend to Hillsboro to Burns, Oregonians are largely in agreement when they say they support requiring police to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to their supervisor. Across urban, suburban, rural, and in-between areas 88-92% of residents support this accountability measure (Q31).
    • More than two-thirds of Oregonians from all areas also support requiring officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against a civilian, although the spread in support between urban residents (78%) and rural residents (66%) is larger (Q33).
  • White Oregonians and Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color also present few differences in opinion when it comes to requiring police to interview and stop excessive use of force (89% and 85%) and requiring officers to report each time they use force (79% and 77%). Again, disaggregated data may present differences between white people and other races (Q31, Q33).

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).

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