From April 8-14, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a public opinion research project to determine how Oregonians feel about social and political change in their area of the state, including their own personal involvement and feelings of self-efficacy. The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire (Q1-Q17).
The Demographic Trends section near the end of the report contains reporting on 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.
Oregonians’ Concerns About Their Area
Overall, the majority of Oregonians (74% of all respondents) are either somewhat or very concerned about the future of their area of the state (Q1). Nearly one in three Oregonians say they are very worried (30%), while only 7% say they are not at all worried.
Oregonians are split as to their opinion of local government, with 41% who say their impression of their local government is either somewhat or very positive, and 50% reporting it is somewhat or very negative (Q6).
Only 7% of Oregonians think the area they live in is thriving. The remainder are split, with 32% saying they think their area is doing well enough; 33% say their area is struggling; and 25% say it depends on who you are (Q3).
Homelessness is the issue Oregonians say is most important for elected leaders to do something about, by a wide margin (Q2).
- 35% of respondents name homelessness as the most pressing issue they want elected leaders in their area to address.
- Housing comes in second, with 13% of respondents naming it as the most pressing issue; crime is third with 11%; and climate change is fourth with 6% naming it as the most pressing issue elected leaders need to address.
“The rising homelessness and the vacancy of jobs will eventually create a vacuum of consumers unable to be served by employers.”Trans, age 18-29, Multnomah County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x
“The lack of affordable housing dovetails with the homeless camps and the drug addiction intersects with the lack of law enforcement and police staffing, which in turn overlaps with the economy and societal decay. All of these issues continue because they are systemic and overlap, so efforts to tackle one fail if the others are not addressed as well.”Man, age 45-54, Multnomah County, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
“I see homeless camps everywhere, including random people just camping out on sidewalks. Nothing seems to be making it better, only worse.”Woman, age 45-54, Multnomah County, White
“Affordable housing is hard to come by and food and health care prices are very high.”Non-binary or gender non-conforming, age 55-64, Washington County, Black or African American and White
“I am worried about the future of my area because of how quickly the green is disappearing.”Man, age 30-44, Klamath County, Black or African American
“Few people in my region know who’s in their local office or committees. The lack of agency most civilians have in their local schools and general decisions made by the county is alarming. The immigration influx is also alarming as it does not meet supply and demand. Housing and jobs are few and far between for locals.”Woman, age 18-29, Deschutes County, White
“Large wildfires have ravaged the area and threatened our community several times in the last few years.”Man, age 55-64, Wasco County, White
“We are politically a very polarized state. Very liberal around the major cities and very, very conservative in the rural areas. We saw this in 2020 and it led to loss of life.”Woman, age 30-44, Clackamas County, White
“The west side of Oregon seem(s) like it couldn’t care less about those of us over here in Eastern Oregon. Their values and beliefs seem completely different than ours. Our Governor’s agenda has done nothing good for our side of the state. To the west side, we are a completely different state.”Man, age 55-64, Umatilla County, White
How Oregonians See Themselves Within Civic Culture
Among a series of statements (Q5a-e) about their feelings of self-efficacy related to social and political issues, Oregonians are most likely to agree with the statement “I see myself as someone who can speak out for themselves and others” (73%) (Q5e).
- When asked to what degree they agree with the statement “I see myself as someone who can speak out for themselves and others,” 73% strongly or somewhat agree, including 33% who strongly agree; a high for this series of statements (Q5e).
- About two-thirds of respondents say they see themselves as someone who has something to offer the world (65%) (Q5d).
- Democrats (68%) are more likely to see themselves as part of a community in their area than Republicans (58%) or Independents (54%).
- When asked whether they see themselves as a part of a community outside the area of Oregon in which they live, 39% of Oregonians agree. Compared to other statements in the series, this statement has the highest number of respondents who say they neither agree nor disagree (32%) (Q5b). Democrats (47%) are more likely to agree with this statement than Republicans (38%) and Independents (35%).44% of Oregonians agree with the statement “I see myself as an individual who can have an impact on what happens in this country” (Q5c).
Importance of Political Involvement In One’s Community
Among a series of statements about their engagement on social and political issues, Oregonians are most likely to agree with the statement that they “have the tools to seek out information in order to develop an informed position on a social or political issue” (73%) (Q4b).
- Nearly as high, 68% of Oregonians agree with the statement “I have the tools necessary to communicate with someone whose views are different than my own” (Q4c). Interestingly, Democrats and Republicans agree with this statement at almost the exact same rate (73% vs. 74%), whereas Independents are less likely to agree (62%).
- Six in ten Oregonians believe they can be a part of something bigger than themselves to effect change (61%) (Q4d). Democrats (70%) are more likely than Republicans (58%) and Independents (53%) to agree with this statement, a sentiment likely influenced by the Democratic Party’s prominence in the state.
- When asked if “being politically involved in (their) community or area of Oregon is important” to them, 47% strongly/somewhat agree, and 32% neither agree nor disagree (Q4a). Democrats (59%) are more likely than Republicans (48%) and Independents (39%) to agree with this statement.
Oregonians in Their Own Words: Prioritizing Involvement
A slim majority of Oregonians (51%) view social and political change in their area of Oregon as either their top priority or pretty important to them (Q7). 43% say they think about it sometimes, or that it’s not really on their mind.
“Social and political changes are necessary to ensure we have a future.”Woman, 18-29, Lane County, White
“Democrat or Republican, I don’t care. We need somebody who will actually fix the issues that we’ve been given.”Man, age 30-44, Multnomah County, Asian and White
“Society needs to change, but I do not have the ability to change it. I support the one who does.”Man, age 30-44, Lincoln County, White
“I tried to call and talk to someone, and they don’t care. I get hung up on or they don’t call back.”Woman, age 45-54, Coos County, Hispanic/Latina/x
“The social and political climates have become so volatile that regular people like me, those that just want to live in peace, don’t know what to do anymore.”Non-binary or gender non-conforming, age 65-74, Multnomah County, White
“People like me are ignored.”Woman, age 55-64, Washington County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
“It’s important, but I don’t foresee much change.”Gender not disclosed, age 75+, Benton County, White
Participation in Specific Types of Involvement
When it comes to civic engagement in Oregon, people are most likely to have shared their opinions with policymakers, helped educate the public about an issue, or attended a protest (Q10a-g).
- Nearly six in ten residents have reached out to an elected leader about a law, policy, or budget priority (58%). About one in five say they currently stay involved this way (21%) (Q10d).
- More than half of respondents have taken things a step further and sought to educate others on a specific topic (54%), including one-in-six who continue to engage in this work (17%) (Q10f).
- About half of Oregonians have attended a protest in the past, or currently attend protests (46%), compared to 54% who have never participated (Q10g).
- Few Oregonians have worked to develop public policies. This type of involvement is the least common, and 76% of residents say they have never engaged in this way (Q10e).
- One in six Oregonians currently work or volunteer in a capacity dedicated to social and political change (17%) (Q8).
- Considering the times when they were most active during the last year, just over one-third of Oregonians spent at least a few hours per week on social change and political activities during the past year (35%) (Q9).
Where Oregonians Would go to Build Civic Leadership Skills
More than one in four Oregonians are confident they know where to turn to get the skills and resources they need to get politically involved (28%) (Q14). Many of these residents would reach out to a party or nonpartisan issue group for more information about getting involved or to take training (Q14a, open response question).
- Many folks would first turn to their political party (or, a political party, if unaffiliated) to access training or opportunities to get involved, including training programs for candidates, like Emerge.
- Others would start their search for opportunities with an issues-based advocacy organization, like Black Lives Matter, Oregon Right to Life, Rural Oregonian Project, OSPIRG.
- Several people also mentioned non-partisan groups, like the League of Women Voters, which helps people learn about candidates and issues, or community-based organizations, like the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.
One in five residents are open to receiving information from organizations about training opportunities and ways to educate others (21%) (Q16).
Oregonians in Their Own Words: Knowledge and Skills They Would Share with Others
Oregonians were asked if there were any topics or skills they might like to help other Oregonians learn about (Q15). The knowledge and skills Oregonians would like to share with others touch on the same issues that are most important to Oregonians broadly: homelessness; climate change and the environment; and education:
“Food insecurity, affordable housing development, evidence-based strategies to address homelessness.”Woman, age 45-54, Washington County, Asian and White
“I wish I could help with the fear and hate that grows between conflicting views.”Woman, age 18-29, Josephine County, White
“We need to help others. Even when we think we can’t, we can. We are the change of the future. If we don’t speak up, we won’t change anything.”Woman, age 30-44, Josephine County, Hispanic/Latina/x and White
“Living to save our planet. As well as going back to the basics.”Woman, age 55-64, Columbia County, Native American or American Indian or Alaska Native, and White
“I would like to make the opportunity to teach how to debate in a calm and kind way.”Woman, age 30-44, Clackamas County, White
“Can you teach empathy and critical thinking skills? Teach others grace and tolerance? Not just PC lip service? Maybe I am just too old.”Woman, age 65-74, Multnomah County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
“It wouldn’t hurt if others learn how to think rationally and be willing to listen to opposing views.”Man, age 75+, Linn County, White
“Our metro area is too idealistic and politically correct – and too negative toward listening and working with alternate points of view. Practical solutions are getting pushed to the side more and more.”Man, age 65-74, Lane County White
Oregonians in Their Own Words: What Keeps Them from Getting Involved
Oregonians don’t have a strong desire for more time in their schedules to devote to social and political causes, with 31% saying they wish they could spend more time on social political change, 37% saying they do not, and another 31% saying they’re not sure if they’d like to have more time to dedicate to social and political change (Q11).
Of those who say they wish they could spend more time on social and political change-related activities, 46% say they are too busy, 30% say they don’t know where to start, and 23% say they can’t for another reason (Q11a).
“Would love it if there was more outreach for people to get involved in small, but meaningful ways that don’t take a lot of time.”Woman, age 30-44, Washington County, Black or African American
“Being a single father doesn’t afford me much time for anything, especially when 90% of my income goes towards rent.”Man, age 45-54, Linn County, White
“I am a homemaker with two special needs children, and it pretty much takes all my time and energy.”Woman, age 18-29, Jackson County, Hispanic/Latina/x
“I live in a rural area and live on a small social security income. It is expensive for me to attend events and activities in town, but Zoom is a blessing.”Man, age 65-74, Benton County, White
“I am disabled and chronically ill. Not only do these issues make my participation unreliable, but events are NOT ACCESSIBLE. It is appalling how many people still don’t include disabled people in their diversity and inclusion policies and procedures.”Non-binary person, age 55-64, Multnomah County, White
“It’s more important to try and line me up to lose my vehicle/shelter by making a new city ordinance that an expired plate means an inoperable vehicle and is subject to being towed immediately, than it is to listen to what (someone) like me has to say.”Man, age 30-44, Josephine County, Hispanic/Latino/x
“My career in healthcare and my job are overwhelming me, so I have little time and energy to devote to social or political change. However, it does consume a great deal of my time not spent at work or dealing with work issues.”Woman, age 55-64, Washington County, Asian and White
What If: The Issues They Would Work On, Given More Times and Resources
Given more time and resources to devote to a political or social issue in Oregon, one in three residents answered in an open-ended question that they would choose to work on Oregon’ s homelessness and affordable housing crises (34%) (Q12).
Residents named a variety of other issues or causes they would support with additional time and resources. These issues fall into five broad categories (Q12).
- Providing needed social services and education to children, families, and adults (15%)
- Mitigating impacts of climate change and stewarding Oregon’s natural resources (12%)
- Improving the economy and promoting economic justice (10%)
- Promoting racial and social justice (7%)
- Gender, biological sex, sexual orientation, or reproduction (5%)
In terms of change-making activities, Oregon residents are most likely to express interest in creating community coalitions; organizing for local issues or long-term movements; or developing public policies
- “Bringing together community members from different perspectives to create a unified coalition for change” is the activity that resonates most deeply with residents (30%).
- Nearly one in four residents say they would enjoy “organizing communities or neighbors around a local issue” (23%), or building “long-term movements for change” (22%).
- Developing public policy is a favorite action for 21% of Oregonians and is especially favored among high-income Oregonians.
Identifying What Unites Us and 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.
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.
Differences Between Black, Indigenous, and Other Oregonians of Color and White Oregonians
- Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color are slightly less worried about the future of their area of Oregon compared to white Oregonians (67% compared to 75% somewhat/very worried) (Q1).
- White Oregonians are more likely than BIPOC Oregonians to say they have the tools they need to seek out information in order to develop an informed position on a social or political issue (76% vs. 66%) (Q4b).
- During the times when they were most active during the past year, about one-in-five BIPOC Oregonians spent the equivalent of at least one day per week on change-related activities (21%), while only 14% of white Oregonians spent the same amount of time (Q9).
- When it comes to engaging in political and social change, there are only two statistically significant, but rather small, differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians’ participation in civic engagement:
- White residents are more likely than BIPOC residents to reach out to an elected official in an attempt to influence a policy decision (59% to 51%) (Q10d).
- BIPOC Oregonians are more likely to have attended a protest (53% to 44%) (Q10g).
- Similarly, there are two small but statistically significant differences in BIPOC and white Oregonians’ interest in particular change-making activities (Q13).
- BIPOC Oregonians are more interested in learning more about or gaining experience in organizing or participating in protests (16%) compared to white Oregonians (10%).
- About one-in-five BIPOC participants are interested in learning about or gaining experience in campaigning or nonprofit fundraising (19%), while only 12% of white respondents are interested in this type of activity.
Differences Between Residents of Rural and Urban Areas
- Homelessness remains the top priority for residents of both rural and urban areas, to varying degrees (Q2,Q12).
- Homelessness is the top priority for elected officials to work on for both rural and urban Oregonians, however, rural Oregonians report this as their top priority at a rate 20 percentage points lower than urban residents (22% vs. 43%) (Q2).
- Rural and urban residents also say homelessness is the number one issue they would like to work on if they had more time and resources, although the percentage of urban residents who say they’d prioritize homelessness is nearly twice that of rural residents who say homelessness is what they’d work on (33% vs. 18%) (Q12).
- Population density, a sense of belonging, and public involvement seem to be positively correlated (Q5a,Q7,Q8,Q9). As noted below, these differences could, however, be impacted by semantics.
- 64% of residents of urban areas feel they’re part of a community, while 58% of residents of rural areas feel the same (Q5a).
- Residents of urban areas are 10 percentage points more likely than their counterparts in rural areas to say they can be a part of something bigger to effect change (69% vs. 59%) (Q4d).
- Urbanites are also 10 percentage points more likely than their rural counterparts to say social and political change in their area of Oregon is their top priority or pretty important (57% vs. 47%) (Q7).
- Urban residents are more likely to currently be involved in social or political change, and to have spent more time during the past year on change-related activities (Q8,Q9).
- Urban residents are more likely than their rural counterparts to currently work or volunteer in change-related activities by a small, but significant margin (urban: 22%; rural: 15%) (Q8).
- During the past year, people living in urban areas are twice as likely as those in rural areas to have spent one or more days per week, on average, on social or political change (22% vs. 11%) (Q9).
- It comes as no surprise that rural residents are far less likely to have attended a protest, with only 37% saying they have ever attended (Q10g).
- Rural areas lack the geographically concentrated population that helps facilitate a protest, so people living in rural areas are likely to have to travel longer distances to participate in protests.
- It is possible that what appear to be differences in prioritization and participation might be reduced if rural residents’ participation were framed as community involvement and contribution rather than “social and political change-related activities,” in particular.
- When it comes to political and social change-making activities or skills that Oregonians would like to learn more about or gain experience in, rural residents are the most likely to say they’re not interested in any of the listed activities (39%) (Q13).
- Of the rural Oregonians who are interested in developing their participation through a listed activity, most would choose “bringing together community members from different perspectives to create a united coalition for change” (28%).
Differences Between Age Groups
- Young adults (aged 18-29) don’t feel as uneasy as older generations about the way things are going in their area of the state (Q1,Q3,Q6).
- Young adults are the age group most likely to say they are not at all or not to worried about the future of their area of the state by a significant margin (39% vs. 17%-32%) (Q1).
- 18-29-year-olds are more than twice as likely to say their area is thriving compared to older adults (15% to 3%-7%) (Q3).
- Oregonians aged 45 to 74 have a more negative view of their local government (51%-56% compared to 43%-49%), while people between the ages of 18 and 44 are the most likely to say they don’t know how they feel about their local government (12%-14%) (Q6).
- Young Oregonians are less likely than older adults to say they have the tools and information they need in order to contribute to civic culture; are less likely to feel they are a part of a larger community; are less likely to see their involvement as important; are less likely to feel they can have an impact or effect change; and are more likely to experience barriers to public involvement.
- Older Oregonians are far more likely to say they have the tools they need to seek out information and develop an informed position, with an astonishing 30-point difference between the oldest and youngest age groups (88% compared to 58%) (Q4b). This gap is all the more significant when you consider younger people are much more likely to be internet savvy and have internet access at their fingertips.
- 18-29-year-olds are significantly less likely than all other age groups to agree with the statement “I see myself as someone who can speak out for themselves and others,” (64% vs. 72%-79%) (Q5e).
- Worryingly, young adults, aged 18-29, are the least likely to say they see themselves as someone who has something to offer the world, by a margin of seven percentage points or more (58% vs.65%-69%) (Q5d).
- Nearly three-in-four Oregonians aged 75 and older see themselves as part of a community in their area (72%), while fewer than half of 18-29-year-olds feel the same sense of belonging (47%) (Q5a).
- Young Oregonians are practically evenly split between agreeing (39%) and disagreeing (38%) that they can have an impact on what happens in this country (Q5c). In all other age groups, the percentage of those who agree is at least 11 points higher than the percentage of those who disagree, with the widest spread between those who are 75 or older (49% agree; 26% disagree).
- 18-29-year-olds are the age group least likely believe they can be a part of something bigger than themselves to effect change (54%) (Q4d).
- This survey shows significant differences of opinion by age when it comes to being involved in one’s community. For example, Oregonians aged 55 and older are more likely to believe it is important to be politically involved (54-59%) than those aged 18-29 (37%) (Q4a). This may, at least in part, explain the significantly lower rates of voter turnout among 18-29-year-olds compared to older adults, at both the state and national levels.
- While a slim majority of Oregonians view social and political change in their area of Oregon as either their top priority or pretty important to them (51%), that number is drastically lower for young adults (Q7). About one-third of 18-29-year-olds(34%) and fewer than half of 30-44-year-olds (44%) consider social and political change either pretty important or their top priority, compared to 59-65% of Oregonians aged 45+.
Time Spent on Change-Related Activities Varies by Age Group
- While older Oregonians are much more likely to currently participate in social- or political-change work or volunteerism, younger Oregonians (18-29) have spent, on average, more time on change-related activities over the past year (Q8,Q9).
- About one quarter of people 65 and older in Oregon say they currently participate in social- or political-change work or volunteerism (24%). This is a significant increase over Oregonians in younger age groups (13%-18%) (Q8).
- Considering the times when they were most active during the past year, younger Oregonians, aged 18-29, are more likely than other age groups to have spent the equivalent of at least one or two days per week on change-related activities (23%) (Q9).
- Age is a significant determining factor in whether people have participated in specific social and political change-related activities (Q10a-g).
- The most popular action taken by average Oregonians is reaching out to an elected leader about issues or policies (58%), but nearly two-thirds of 18-29-year-olds (64%) and more than half of 30-44-year-olds (54%) have never contacted an elected official to share their opinion (Q10d).
- Older Oregonians are more likely to help develop public policy, which is something very few young residents have done (Q10e).
- Among residents 65 and older, 38-40% say they are currently involved with public policy development or have been in the past, compared to 17% of people under the age of 45.
- There is one political action that balances the scales between young Oregonians and seniors: protesting (Q10g).
- Among people under 30, 52% have attended a protest in the past or continue to protest today. In fact, people under 30 are the single most likely group to report currently protesting (12%).
- Meanwhile, 45-54% of people 65 and older have attended a protest. Few (4-5%) say this is an activity they currently participate in.
- It is the age groups in the middle who are least likely to have ever attended a protest: 40% of people aged 30-44 have attended, along with 39% of people 55-64. Half of those in-between, ages 45-54, have attended a protest(50%).
- Differing levels of involvement across age groups may be largely due to one factor: time (Q11,Q11a).
- Among seniors, 24-26% say they would enjoy having more time to spend on social and political activities.
- Among people under 30, 39% say they wish they had more time to devote.
Time is One of the Most Important Factors for Participation
- Despite the somewhat grim picture the data paints with regard to civic culture and young Oregonians, young Oregonians show the highest levels of enthusiasm for civic engagement. This age group represents an opportunity to maximize the effective and efficient use of resources. Young Oregonians have the highest levels of interest in social and political activities and skills, but also the widest gap in reported eagerness to participate and actual participation, and therefore represent the greatest opportunity for increased involvement.
- They’re more interested than the general population in gaining experience in or learning about every single change-making activity or skill listed with only three exceptions, all of which were equal to or within one point of the statewide average. Respondents were permitted to select as many skills or activities as they were interested in, and 18-29-year-olds selected an average of 2.38. The average number of selections declined with age from 1.90 for 30-44-year-olds to 1.29 for those aged 75 and older.
- 18-29-year-olds are the least likely to say they are not interested in any of the activities or skills, with 26% saying they’re not interested, compared to 41% of those 65 and older.
- Younger Oregonians say they would like more information or to be contacted about these issues at a rate nearly twice that of the general population of Oregon (18-29-year-olds: 38%; Statewide:21%).
- Younger residents are more likely to say they wish they had more time to spend on social and political change, and of those who say they wish they had more time, only 7% say they’re not more involved for any reason other than they’re too busy or they don’t know where to start.
- Young Oregonians indicate they don’t feel like they have the knowledge they need in order to navigate public involvement, and that busy schedules also get in the way of their participation. Interventions should prioritize opportunities that are adaptive/conducive to work and school schedules or go even further and subsidize income lost to time spent on civic engagement.
- Young Oregonians could also benefit from entry-level opportunities that help individuals break into and navigate participation, both broadly, and within specific systems, especially systems that are more complex or specialized.
- Among 18-29-year-olds, those who do not have a four-year degree and are not currently attending university have the greatest need for increased support related to social and political change-making.
- The data indicate that Oregonians who obtain at least a bachelor’s degree are likely to eventually obtain resources, knowledge, and skills to enable their public involvement, and are much more likely to participate. Because enthusiasm for change-making tends to fade with age, engaging those who are not on track for a four-year degree while they are young might reduce the impact of factors that contribute to the negative association between civic engagement and lower levels of educational attainment.
Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,581 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 is ±2.5%. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%. There are approximately 2,500,000 Oregonians aged 18+ meaning that for the survey, every 1% is the equivalent of approximately 25,000 residents.
As noted above, 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).