Political Divisions

Oregonians weigh in on whether our country and our state are politically divided, and what it would take to bridge political divides.

From February 1-7, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including beliefs and attitudes about political divisions in the United States and in Oregon.  The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire (Q9-11, Q13-15, Q27).

Troubled by National Divides

Nearly all Oregonians say that our country is politically divided and that the trend is worrisome (Q9, Q10).

  • Almost nine in ten Oregonians say the U.S. is politically divided (88%). The same number say that they are somewhat or very worried about this division (88%).
  • An astounding 99% of college graduates believe the U.S. is politically divided, and 96% of these graduates are somewhat or very concerned about it. Conservatives and liberals-economically and socially-both agree that the U.S. is a politically divided country (88% to 92%).  They also report similar levels of worry about it. 
  • Conservatives and liberals – economically and socially – both agree that the U.S. is a politically divided country (88% to 92%). They also report similar levels of worry about these divides.

Our State Compared to Our Nation: Slightly Less Divided, Slightly Less Troubling

Oregonians see political divisions in state politics, too, but to a lesser degree than nationally (74% Oregon to 88% nation) (Q13).

  • Similarly, division in state politics is seen as less worrisome. While 81% of Oregonians say they are somewhat or very worried about the state divide, far fewer say they are very worried about it, as compared to national politics (35% state to 53% nation) (Q14).

News Source Influence on Perceptions of “A Divided State”

People who believe Oregon is politically divided are more likely to rely on digital or online news sources, as well as national newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post (Q27).

  • One in four who believe that our state is divided rely on digital news sources (24%). Reliance on these types of outlets among people who do not see a political divide in Oregon sits at 14%.
  • Papers like the New York Times are slightly more popular among people who believe Oregon is divided – but not by much (12% vs. 9%).
  • People who say the state is not divided are much more likely to get their news from social media such as Facebook and Twitter than those who feel the state is divided (19% vs. 8%).

Yet Another Source of Political Division: Whether We Can Work Together to Bridge Divides

About one in five Oregonians believe it is possible to overcome national political division (28%) (Q11).

  • The most common response, though, is that people aren’t sure if we can move past division (41%).
  • Liberals-economically and socially–most often say they aren’t sure if these divisions can be eased (both 45%), whereas conservatives most commonly say they cannot be remedied (40%, 44%).

Oregonians aren’t any more optimistic about healing divisions at home, versus nationally. About one-quarter say it’s possible (27%), while the rest say it is impossible or else they aren’t sure (38% and 35%) (Q15).

  • Men are more optimistic than women that we can come together to bridge the divide (33% to 21%).

In Their Own Words: What Needs to Happen to Bridge the Political Divide

When asked what needs to happen to bridge the political divide in the country, Oregonians mention the need to compromise, reduce partisanship, put the greater interest of the country above personal values, and care for those who need it.

“Bipartisanship! Both parties must have a common goal aside from their personal beliefs and perspectives and understand that the interest and growth of the country should be their first priority! The people come first”

Male, age 30-44, Washington County, African

“Having better compromises between parties on main issues instead of just picking on one side over the other”

Male, age 18-29, Lane County, Asian or Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino/a/x

“Those who were responsible for January 6th need to be prosecuted, less gerrymandering so districts can become more competitive (ensuring moderate candidates instead of extremists), guardrails put on social media, and revisiting the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling”.

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

“A review of what we have in common: the desire for the opportunity, and a willingness to care for people who need it”.

Female, age 55-64, Multnomah County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x and White

“Less extreme policy suggestions from both sides of the aisle and politicians who have the desire to bridge this gap rather than act in self-interest or single-party interest need to be in office”.

Female, age 18-29, Deschutes County, White

“We need to stop fighting with each other about nonsense restrictions put in place by an oppressive government and stand up for each other as a nation. We formed this nation to escape tyranny, and we are doomed to fall back into it if we cannot correct our course”.

Male, age 18-29, Multnomah County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x and White

“Politicians need to consider the welfare of the citizens and stop being driven by lobbyists and their personal election goals. We need to move beyond the two-party system that forces people to choose a side, a label. The much larger need is for the corporate and global interests to no longer be allowed to buy the politicians and the media”.

Female, age 65-74, Lane County, White

“Rural Oregon needs to be heard, but they also need to understand that the policies coming from urban elected officials have a direct impact on their lives: higher wages, paid sick leave, paid family leave, environmental protections. We are all in this together”.

Male, age 45-54, Multnomah 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. 

There is not a meaningful difference between BIPOC and white respondents when it comes to political divisions nationally. Both groups believe division is stark (84% to 89%) (Q9).

  • When it comes to state political divisions, BIPOC residents are less sure. While 76% of white Oregonians say the state is divided, 64% of BIPOC residents agree. This is due in large part to the fact that one in five BIPOC Oregonians aren’t sure if the state is divided or not (19%).

Urban residents are less likely to say the U.S. is a divided county (84%) than rural voters (92%) (Q9).

  • Urban residents are also less likely to report political divisions at the state level compared to rural residents (71% to 81%) (Q13).

Rural residents are more likely to believe the country is politically divided, but they are less likely to express deep worry over these divisions than urban residents (Q10).

  • A strong 82% of rural residents say they are somewhat or very worried about national divisions in politics. But that figure is significantly diminished compared to urban residents (91%).

Of all Oregonians, people under 30 are the most likely to say our state is not divided politically (26%) (Q13).

  • Additionally, one in five young adults isn’t sure if the state is divided (22%).  

Concern over political divisions tends to increase among age groups (Q10, Q14).     

  • About three-quarters of residents under the age of 30 say they are worried about national political divisions, whereas about one in ten aren’t sure (73% and 9%).
  • For older people, concern over national division ramps up (86% to 96%).  No one over age 54 says they are not at all worried. 
  • When it comes to state politics, the same trend holds. At the low end of the spectrum, 63% of people under 30 say they are concerned about state divisions. That figure rises among older age groups (81% to 84%) (Q14).

Young people tend to be more optimistic that we can move past political divisions in Oregon (Q15).

  • More than one-third of people under the age of 45 say that we can bridge the divide (34% to 40%) compared to older Oregonians (16% to 28%.

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,584 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, ranges from ±1.5% to ±2.5%. 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 sizes permit reliability.

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 (https://oregonvbc.org).

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