From February 11-20, 2023, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs on population growth in Oregon. A description of the methodology used for the research is provided below.
The survey was prompted by a Census Bureau report that showed Oregon’s population decreased in 2022.
The question numbers in this document correspond with the accompanying annotated questionnaire. 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.
Included below for selected questions are noteworthy subgroups variations for BIPOC/white, age, urban/rural, education, gender, and households with and without children. The accompanying set of tabs notes subgroup variations for all the questions.
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.
For survey full question wording, all statistically significant subgroup findings, and respondent quotes, readers are encouraged to refer to the accompanying three documents: (1) annotated questionnaire, (2) crosstabulations document, and (3) verbatim written responses spreadsheet.
Oregon Values and Beliefs Center: This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. OVBC is an independent and non-partisan organization and an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation. Representative OVBC projects include opinion research about race-based crimes for the Asian Health and Service Center, as well as research about early childhood education and the cost of childcare for the Children’s Institute.
Population Growth: Key Takeaways
- Oregonians are ambivalent about population growth, with one-half (49%) considering it “both good and bad” for the state. Positive associations for population growth include perceived economic development and increased diversity. Negative associations include environmental concerns, lack of affordable housing/overcrowding, and higher cost of living.
- 62% strongly agree that a higher population means more traffic, congestion, and strains on public services, the highest such rating among a series of statements about population growth.
- Even though there is evident concern about the direction of the state, particularly regarding houselessness and affordable housing, 72% of Oregonians say they like living in the state and wish to stay here. Only 14% say they want to leave and relocate to a different state.
- Those who say they like living in Oregon and wish to stay cited the natural beauty of the state and outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as a comfortable personal situation or family history with the region as their primary reasons for staying.
- Asked if there is a state (or territory) in the U.S. that would be better to live in than Oregon, respondents cited Idaho and the state of Washington the most.
Mixed Feelings on Population Growth: Economic Benefits, Environmental Concerns, and Strains on Resources
- Oregonians are ambivalent about population growth, with one-half (49%) considering it “both good and bad” for the state. Meanwhile, roughly equal amounts consider population growth to be a bad thing (20%) and a good thing (16%) for the state (Q1).
- Those most likely to say population growth is a good thing include men, college graduates, and those who live in urban areas of Oregon.
- Those who consider population growth to be a good thing (Q1a) cited economic growth and increased diversity as key reasons why. Below are some representative quotes.
“Our country is growing, and folks need good places to live. As Oregon grows, more opportunities open in all fields of endeavor. Growth also can lead to greater diversity. Diversity is inherently good for a culture as it leads to greater understanding between people of many heritage backgrounds.”Woman, age 45-54, Deschutes County, White
“A growing population will have a larger workforce and increase tax revenues.”Woman, age 18-29, Lane County, Black or African American
- Those who consider population growth to be a bad thing (Q1b) cited negative environmental impacts, overcrowding and lack of housing, and higher cost of living as key reasons why. Below are some representative quotes.
“Driving up housing costs, traffic congestion. When the state is already dealing with the aftereffects of the pandemic and the homeless crisis.”Man, age 75+, Lincoln County, White
“Population growth in general (nationwide & worldwide) is bad for the earth as it is ultimately unsustainable. Local population growth is bad due to rising housing costs and the loss of natural spaces and habitats.”Woman, age 30-44, Coos County, Hispanic/Latina/x
- Those who consider population growth to be both a good and bad thing (Q1c) cited the push and pull between economic growth and overburdened resources as key reasons why. Below are some representative quotes.
“I think that a moderate population growth is good for the economy and for creating new opportunities, but it does create issues in housing and congestion and demand for services such as health care.”Man, age 45-54, Multnomah County, White
“Population growth is an important part of community growth but when the population outpaces the city or state’s resources too many things break down. Many parts of Oregon have a housing crisis and I think some of that can be blamed on the population increase.”Man, age 45-54, Douglas County, White
- Respondents agreed with a series of six statements about population growth, with several statements indicating very strong agreement, including those about population growth leading to more traffic, congestion, and strains on public services, as well as strains on natural resources and outdoor recreation destinations (Q2-7).
- Higher population means more traffic, congestion, and strains on public services (Q5): 62% strongly agree.
- Increasing numbers puts more stress on natural resources (water, forests, clean air, etc.) (Q7): 56% strongly agree.
- Increasing numbers means more crowded outdoor destinations (trails, campgrounds, fishing spots, beaches, etc.) (Q6): 52% strongly agree.
- Agreement with all three of these statements is high across all major demographic groups (age, gender, race/ethnicity, area of state, education, and children in HH)
Oregonians prioritize natural beauty, family, and equality in desirable places to live
- Seven in ten Oregonians (72%) say they like living in the state and wish to stay here, whereas 14% say they want to leave and relocate to a different state (Q21).
- Oregonians 75 or older are by far the most likely to like living in Oregon. Next in line are those 65-74 years of age, white Oregonians, and college graduates who express they like Oregon and want to stay here.
- Respondents who say they like living in Oregon and wish to stay (Q21a) cited the natural beauty of the state and outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as a comfortable personal situation or family history with the region. Below are some representative quotes.
“I love the natural beauty of the area and the opportunities for recreation for my child. I’ve also built a community in my town and want to continue building that community.”Woman, age 30-44, Douglas County, White
“I have lived here my whole life and have everything I need to be successful here.”Woman, age 18-29, Umatilla County, Black or African American
- Respondents who say they want to leave Oregon (Q21b) cited political extremism/polarization, high taxes and cost of living, and concerns about crime. Below are some representative quotes.
“I want to remain in Oregon (as I am native-born) but find it increasingly unaffordable, unlivable (homelessness), unsafe, the natural beauty is changing to blight, and the ‘soft on crime’ legislation.”Woman, age 55-64, Yamhill County, White
“Too much crime, taxes and a government that is incompetent.”Man, age 45-54, Lane County, White
- Among a list of considerations for what constitutes a desirable place to live, Oregonians rank natural beauty and outdoor opportunities, plus proximity to family and friends as the most important for them (Q23-32). This is a continuation of themes expressed by Oregonians who said they like living in Oregon and wish to stay here (Q21a).
- A beautiful natural place with outdoor opportunities like mountains and ocean (Q26):
- This is the #1 ranked consideration for men, women, urban and rural, white, and BIPOC Oregonians.
- Oregonians most enthusiastic about a place’s quality of natural beauty with outdoor opportunities like mountains and the ocean influencing where they choose to live include those 55 or older, as well as college graduates.
- Close to family members and/or good friends (Q29):
- Women are the most likely demographic distinction to say being close to family and good friends dictates where they choose to live.
- A place that values equality, diversity, and tolerance (Q27):
- There are no significant demographic differences observed for this consideration.
- A place where people share my own values (Q28):
- There are no significant demographic differences observed for this consideration.
- Job opportunity for work I really enjoy (Q23):
- Those 18-29 years old are the most likely to say they want to live somewhere where there is a job opportunity for work they really enjoy.
Oregonians’ Top Concerns: Houselessness, Affordable Housing, Substance Abuse, and Polarization in Politics
- As the graphic on the following page shows, among a series of issues facing Oregon, residents are most concerned (judging by those that received the highest “very worried” scores) about houselessness, affordable housing, substance abuse and addiction, and increasing polarization in politics or ideological beliefs (Q36-50). These are also concerns that were voiced by respondents when asked about the downsides of population growth (Q1b), as well as why they might wish to leave Oregon (Q21b).
- Houselessness (Q38):
- Those most concerned about houselessness were Oregon women, more so than any other demographic distinction.
- Those who live in rural areas, as well as those 75 and older showed some of the lowest amounts of extreme worry over this.
- Affordable housing (Q49):
- Women and those with some college education are the most worried about the availability of affordable housing in Oregon.
- Those expressing lower rates of extreme worry include college graduates and those 75 and older.
- Substance abuse and addiction (Q39):
- There are not many differences between demographic groups, although it is noteworthy that women are more likely to be very worried about this issue than men (53% vs. 41%).
- Increasing polarization in politics or ideological beliefs (Q43):
- Those most worried about increasing polarization when it comes to politics or ideological beliefs include those 65 and older and college graduates.
- Those expressing a bit less strong worry include BIPOC Oregonians, those with less formal education, as well as younger folks.
- The use of firearms, vehicles, and explosives to express individual or political opinions (Q41):
- In a continuing trend, women are more likely to be very worried than men about this issue (48% vs. 35%), and strong concern again increased with age and higher levels of education.
- Impacts of climate change on either ourselves and/or nature (Q37):
- Women, college graduates, and those who live in urban areas are the most worried about the impacts of climate change on humans and nature.
- Provided the opportunity to weigh in open-ended on any of these issues, respondents frequently cited concerns about houselessness, crime, political polarization, and the high cost of living, themes echoed elsewhere in the survey (Q51). Below are some representative quotes.
“Affordable housing and good paying jobs are the biggest worries for most people in my area. I am retired and own my house, so it isn’t an issue for me, but I have grandkids I worry about.”Woman, age 65-74, Jackson County, Black or African American
“Oregon is becoming such a hard place to live. The price of rent versus the average wage is shocking. There is no way to rent somewhere without having roommates, multiple jobs, or a very good high-paying job.”Woman, age 65-74, Washington County, White
“The housing market is off the charts expensive. People can’t afford to live anymore and it’s very sad. That’s why we have a homeless population as high as it is. Something needs to be done.”Woman, age 45-54, Multnomah County, Hispanic/Latina/x
“I am not fearful of being homeless, but I am very concerned about the effects of having such a large homeless population and the crime that follows.”Man, age 30-44, Linn County, White
“As a transgender person who was disabled by COVID, I am constantly on edge when I go out with my partner. I am worried constantly that I will be a victim of a hate crime while trying to get by.”Man, age 55-64, Multnomah County, White
“The political polarization is getting out of hand, and we were recently without power because our substation was attacked by white supremacists or whoever, which was stupid.”Woman, age 30-44, Washington County, Asian and White
“My chief worry is the continuing cultural and economic divergence of rural vs. urban residents.”Man, age 18-29, Benton County, White
- Asked if there is a state (or territory) in the U.S. they think would be better to live in than Oregon, responses varied, with the following states receiving the most mentions: Idaho: 144, Washington: 114, Montana: 76, California: 70, Alaska: 65, Florida: 54, Hawaii: 48, Colorado: 44, Texas: 41k, and Arizona: 31.
Methodology: The online survey consisted of 2,552 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 ±1.94%. Due to rounding or multiple-answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.