Recalling Elected Officials

Are policy disagreements alone sufficient reason to recall elected officials at the state and local levels, or should recall be reserved for instances of misconduct?

From June 8th through 14th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including how they feel about recalling state and local officials in Oregon. 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. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by the area of the state, gender, age, and education. 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.

Policy Disagreements, but not Misconduct: Sufficient Reason for Recall?

  • Overall, Oregonians are split on whether policy disagreements alone are valid reasons to recall an elected official who has not been accused of misconduct, such as what has been attempted with Oregon Governor Kate Brown and discussed regarding Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. Overall, 41% say they do not agree that policy disagreements alone are valid reasons for a recall and 43% say they do agree that policy disagreements are sufficient. 16% are unsure (Q8).
  • Men are more likely than women to agree that policy disagreements alone are valid reasons to recall an elected official who has not been accused of misconduct (50% vs. 36%) while women were more likely than men to say they were unsure (20%) (Q8).
  • Oregonians ages 55 and older were significantly more likely to oppose recall based on policy disagreements compared to those 54 and younger (49%-50% vs. 31%-38% respectively). Of all the demographic groups, Oregonians ages 18-29 are the most likely to be unsure (25%) (Q8).

Respondents were provided the open-ended opportunity to share their thoughts about recalling state and local officials in Oregon. Oregonians who believe that policy differences alone are an insufficient reason for a recall tended to cite elections as the preferred method for change. Those who say that policy differences alone are sufficient tended to cite concerns about politicians who have policies that may not be criminal, but are harmful in some way, as well as stressing that recalls are an appropriate way to make their voices heard in the political process. Below are some representative quotes from Oregonians who hold both positive and negative views of these recall efforts (Q9).

Policy Reasons Alone Are Insufficient:

“I think the recall process should be used when an elected official has done or is believed to have done something that is illegal. Just because an official disagrees with you shouldn’t be reason to recall them.”

Female, age 65-74, Marion County, white or Caucasian

“I don’t agree with the recalls. They were elected to lead the state and city, so people should wait for an election to decide who should replace Brown and Wheeler.”

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

“People think with their feelings too often and it shows. If the state elected official isn’t engaging in criminal behavior but acting on what they think is in the best interest of the people, there is no reason to recall. It’s politics. There will be some losers and there will be a winner. Not everybody will be happy.”

Female, age 18-29, Klamath County, Black or African American

“Whether or not you agree or disagree with someone doesn’t give anyone the authority to exercise “voter’s remorse.  As long as no laws (or moralities) have been breached, there’s no law that covers ‘He said/she said something that I didn’t like!’ Can you imagine removing the CEO of Burger King just because their restaurants keep getting your order wrong?”

Male, age 45-54, Washington County, white or Caucasian

Policy Reasons Are Sufficient:

“I think any politician could be recalled if enough folks are very unhappy with the direction that person is going.”

Female, age 65-74, Klamath County, white or Caucasian

“If they govern differently than their positions when campaigning then okay to recall.”

Female, age 55-64, Tillamook County, Asian or Pacific Islander

“You should be able to recall any officials for any reason – if the reason has no validity, then the recall will be defeated.”

Male, age 75+, Washington County, white or Caucasian

“If our officials start making policies that are detrimental to our government’s growth and stability, then they should be removed before too much damage is done.”

Male, age 30-44, Lane County, other race or ethnicity

“Officials are voted in because people agree with their policies. If the official goes against what they ran for, then the people no longer agree with their policy then they should retract their vote and remove the official from office.”

Female, age 18-29, Deschutes County, white or Caucasian

Demographic Trends

Identifying what unites us, understanding what divides us.

  • A plurality of Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color say that policy disagreements alone are sufficient grounds for a recall (48%), while white Oregonians are split equally between whether policy disagreements are (42%) or are not (42%) sufficient grounds(Q8).
  • Oregonians who live in rural parts of the state are least likely to oppose recall based solely on policy disagreements (35%), while urban residents are most likely to oppose recall under these circumstances (47%). Rural residents are most likely to support recall without misconduct accusations (47%) (Q8).

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 (

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Analysis and Reporting by: Ari Wubbold