Right Direction or Wrong Track, Prioritizing Challenges, and Environmental Protections

Is Oregon headed in the right direction or on the wrong track, which challenges are most important for leaders to address, and where do Oregonians stand on environmental protections?

Tent in woods

From May 4th through 10th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs. This online survey consisted of 918 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 ±1.9% to ±3.2% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. 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.

Right Direction, Wrong Track Update

  • While Oregonians may be starting to think about life after the COVID-19 pandemic, they see their community as one in need of rebuilding. Nearly half of Oregon residents say the state is on the right track (49%), but a mere 8% of Oregonians feel strongly that the state is headed in the right direction—a view on pace with assessments from October 2020[1], December 2020[2], and February 2021[3](Q1).  

Prioritizing the Challenges Facing Our Communities

  • Livability issues color opinions about the state’s direction. Homelessness and affordable housing remain top concerns (Q2, Q10). Half of Oregonians say homelessness is the single most important leaders must address (51%), but the vast majority of residents agree that it is one of the top three most important issues (82%). Similarly, about half of Oregonians say affordable housing is in the top three most important issues that state leaders should tackle (49%) (Q10).
  • While homelessness and affordable housing have been top-of-mind concerns for Oregonians for years, urgency about the state’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed (Q3). Now, 45% of Oregonians say it is one of the top three issues facing the state. Moreover, 13% of Oregonians say underemployment is a major concern (Q5).
  • Oregonians with household incomes of $100,000 or more are less likely to rank unemployment in their three issues (32%), whereas half of Oregonians with household incomes of $50,000 or less rank it in the top three (52%) (Q5).

Environmental Protections and Businesses

  • With concerns about livability at all-time highs, it is no surprise that Oregon residents strongly favor maintaining a quality environment to attract people and companies to Oregon. Two-thirds say this should be the approach state leaders take (68%), as opposed to less than one-quarter of residents who think the focus should be on relaxing environmental protection regulations to make it easier for companies to do business (23%) (Q13).
  • Oregonians who identify as economically liberal and moderate are more likely to align themselves with the view that leaders should focus on maintaining a quality environment over relaxing environmental protections to spur growth. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of economic liberals lean this way (85%), along with a majority of moderates (61%). More interestingly, economic conservatives are split: 45% believe maintaining a quality environment is the right path, and 45% believe relaxing environmental protections would be a better approach (Q13).
  • A majority of residents in each of the state’s three major regions favor maintaining a quality environment (58-75%), along with majorities of rural residents, suburbanites, and urban dwellers (57-73%) (Q13).

Demographic Trends

Identifying What Unites Us and Understanding What Divides Us

  • What’s striking about two of the top livability issues—homelessness and affordable housing—is that these concerns aren’t unique to urbanites. While 54% of Portland metro residents say homelessness is the most important thing leaders should address, this figure is edged out in the Willamette Valley region (57%). Even in the rural reaches of the state, a strong plurality say homelessness is the top issue (40%) (Q2).
  • And when it comes to affordable housing, rural residents and those in Central Oregon are feeling the pinch of steep housing prices brought on by the Zoom Town phenomenon. A full quarter of these residents say affordable housing is their top concern (25%), outpacing both the Portland metro region and the Willamette Valley (13% each) (Q10).
  • To put a finer point on things, more than six in ten residents who describe the area in which they live as “rural” say homelessness (66%) and affordable housing (60%) are one of the top three most important issues that leaders should address (Q2, Q10).
  • Concerns about housing costs (and homelessness) in rural areas may be exacerbated by a greater impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on jobs. About six in ten rural residents say unemployment is in their top three key issues (59%), an increase of 19 percentage points over less affected—but still deeply concerned—suburbanites (40%) (Q5).
  • BIPOC Oregonians are more likely than white residents to express concern about both homelessness and unemployment. While six in ten BIPOC respondents said homelessness is the top issue facing the state (60%), half of white residents ranked is as the top issue (50%).  Similarly, while 59% of BIPOC respondents said unemployment was one of their top three concerns, 43% of white residents agreed. The sample size of BIPOC residents is smaller and the data is directional, but these perceptions align with demographic data that shows a higher prevalence of homelessness and unemployment among BIPOC residents generally (Q2, Q3).

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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[1] Survey conducted October 1-6, 2020; OVBC; n=600

[2] Survey conducted December 4-8, 2020; OVBC; n=615

[3] Survey conducted February 11-17, 2021; OVBC; n=600