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News Release
Statewide Survey Findings: Oregonians' Most Important Issue - 01/06/22

Concerns About the Future and the Most Important Issue

Entering a new year, how do Oregonians feel about Oregon’s future? What are the most important issues that need to be addressed? The first part of this month’s survey asked these two questions, which were also asked just over one year ago in the OVBC October 2020 survey. The two surveys allow us to compare how Oregonians’ beliefs have changed over the last year, if at all.


With a new year quickly approaching, the OVBC December survey initially focused on Oregonians’ perception of Oregon’s future and the most important issue that respondents felt needs to be addressed. These two questions were previously asked in the October 2020 OVBC survey[1], which allows us to compare how Oregonians’ perspective on the state’s future and on the most important issue we face has changed over time.

From December 9th through 17th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including questions about Oregon’s future and the most important issues for elected officials to do something about. homelessness and its causes. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead.

This online survey consisted of 1,233 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.7% to ±2.8% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

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 are of the state, gender, age, and education.

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 attached annotated questionnaire and tabs, also available on our blog at oregonvbc.org/blog, or sent directly upon request.
 

Worried About the Future

The first question asked Oregonians how worried they are about Oregon’s future (Q1).

 

  • 75% of Oregonians are somewhat or very worried for Oregon’s future, with 29% expressing that they are very worried.
  • This leaves just 23% of Oregonians who are not very or not at all worried for Oregon’s future.

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Notes: Question 1 asked respondents, “How worried are you about Oregon’s future?” Participants responded on the scale detailed in the key above. The pie chart above displays the results.

 

  • The 75% of Oregonians that express some degree of worry for Oregon’s future is marginally down from October 2020, when 80% of respondents expressed some degree of worry.
    • This difference may be due to the timing of the October 2020 survey which came in the midst of the pandemic, when fewer resources were available to combat the impacts of COVID-19 (e.g. vaccines and relief funding) and election season was right around the corner.

       

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Notes: Question 1 asked respondents, “How worried are you about Oregon’s future?” Oregonians responded on a scale from not at all worried to very worried. This question was also asked in the OVBC October survey. The table above compares responses from the two surveys.
 

The Most Important Problem

Respondents were asked to volunteer the problem they feel is most important for leaders to address (Q2). In other surveys, OVBC has asked Oregonians to choose from a list of issues which they think is the most important to address, but in this instance, respondents were asked to state in their own words which issue is the most important.

  • Homelessness is the issue most frequently mentioned, with 27% of Oregonians saying it is the most important (333 responses). 
    • Following significantly behind homelessness are climate change (12%, or 148 responses) and affordable housing (10%, or 123 responses). 

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Notes: Question 2 asked respondents. “In a few words or short sentence, what is the most important issue you would like Oregon’s elected leaders to do something about?” Oregonians then wrote in their responses, which were coded based on topic to create the above graph. The graph only displays responses that received at least 3% support. 

Comparing the Concerns of December 2021 to those of October 2020

  • Although over a year passed between the December 2021 and October 2020 surveys, many of the most important issues remain the same, including homelessness which received a large plurality in both surveys, with 27% in December 2021 and 29% in October 2020. 
    • In both surveys, the top four important issues remain essentially the same. Following homelessness, Oregonians cited climate change, affordable housing, and crime/ law and order as the next three most important issues in both surveys, and with similar percentages across the two surveys. 
    • One interesting change was respondents’ view on Covid-19. In October 2020, 6% of respondents identified the spread of the virus and the need to control it as the most important issue. In December 2021, Covid was again mentioned by 7% of respondents, but, unlike in October 2020, respondents were concerned with opening back up and protecting personal freedoms and may therefore represent, to some extent, a different subgroup of Oregonians than in October of last year.

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Notes: Question 2 asked respondents, “In a few words or short sentence, what is the most important issue you would like Oregon’s elected leaders to do something about?” Oregonians then wrote in their own responses which were coded based on topic to create the above graph. The same question was asked in the OVBC October 2020 survey. The table above shows the top eight responses in both surveys.

OVBC recently asked Oregonians more questions about the related issues of homelessness and mental health. Findings can be viewed in our previous blog posts. Homelessness is linked here, and mental health is linked here.

In Their Own Words: Oregonians on the Most Important Issue for Elected Leaders to Address

Below are a few representative responses provided in the December 2021 survey:

“Getting rid of homeless camps by neighborhoods and parks. Requiring the homeless to go into rehabs and programs.”
 – Female, age 18-29, Clackamas County, Hispanic/Latina/x and white or Caucasian
 

“Community preparedness for climate change impacts: wildfires, water shortages, economic engines having bad years, etc.” 
– Male, age 65-74, Benton County, white or Caucasian
 

"The homeless issue, as in helping them not just displacing them.”
- Female, age 18-29, Coos County, Hispanic/Latina/x
 

“Public safety. People feel empowered to commit more crime, everything from running traffic lights to carjackings, to shoplifting, to murder. One doesn't feel safe anymore, anywhere.”
– Female, age 55-64, Washington County, Asian or Pacific Islander and white or Caucasian
 

“Law and Order regarding crime and the homeless.”
– Male, age 65-74, Multnomah County, Other race or ethnicity
 

“To help the unemployed find more jobs and bring more investment to our state.”
- Male, age 18-29, Polk County, white or Caucasian
 

“Stop mandating: Masks, Vaccines, closures, and any activity restrictions.”
– Female, age 55-64, Columbia County, Native American or American Indian and white or Caucasian
 

“Consistent budgeting and financial expertise.  We need to vote on the sales tax again as there are still too many underground untaxed businesses.” 
– Female, age 75+, Washington County, Black or African American
 

“Reduce polarization among the citizenry. They should also reduce partisanship among the legislators, but if the voters change their attitudes, I expect the politicians will follow suit.”
 – Male, 65-74, Lincoln County, white or Caucasian
 

“Affordable housing for people who rent, and especially low income, elderly, and disabled.”
- Female, age 55-64, Lane County, Other race or ethnicity
 

“Climate change and environmental degradation because if we don’t get a handle on that, our other problems won’t matter.”
- Female, age 65-74, Washington County, white or Caucasian
 

“Homelessness is getting out of control. Even with an increased number of programs and spending, our leaders are failing to show any real progress.”
- Male, age 45-54, Deschutes County, white or Caucasian
 

“We need to improve our forestry practices and standards to be more sustainable and in line with Washington and California.”
- Female, age 65-74, Grant County, white or Caucasian
 

 “The biggest issue is the economy and workers’ wages. It is way too difficult to make enough to have a good life without burning yourself out.”
- Female, age 18-29, Coos County, white or Caucasian
 

“Homelessness is a big problem. They seem to have more rights than taxpayers who have to put up with their filth and crimes in their neighborhoods and downtown.”
- Female, age 65-74, Marion County, white or Caucasian
 

“Care about rural Oregon. I realize that Eugene and Portland hold a lot of the population, but there are so many people in rural Oregon that need to have their needs met as well.”
- Female, age 18-29, Coos County, Slavic and white or Caucasian
 

“I want the end to face mask-wearing mandates and all efforts to impose vaccination requirements and digital records to be stopped.”
- Female, age 65-74, Lane County, white or Caucasian
 

“This is very destabilizing, the huge numbers of people struggling financially without reasonable safety net public services like well-funded education, healthcare, etc. while the ultra-rich keep ruining everything including the economy, air, water, and climate.”
- Female, age 45-54, Multnomah County, white or Caucasian
 

“Economics. Houses are too expensive. Taxes and rent are too high. Oregonians don't feel they are able to provide for themselves. Our state is unaffordable for people going into adulthood and our rising homeless population should help show that.”
- Female, age 18-29, Deschutes County, white or Caucasian

 

Most Important Issue: “Worried” Oregonians vs. “Not Worried” Oregonians

Do Oregonians who are worried about Oregon’s future have different beliefs regarding the most important issue we face compared to Oregonians’ that are less or not concerned for Oregon’s future? The table below compared these two groups (worried Oregonians and not worried Oregonians) to examine differences across the eight issues most frequently identified as most important.

  • Thirty-two percent of “not worried” Oregonians identify homelessness as the most important issue compared to 25% of “worried” Oregonians. 

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  • There are minor 3-4% differences for three issues: crime and safety; lack of trust and accountability for elected officials; and divisiveness between rural/urban areas. “Worried” Oregonians are more likely than their counterparts to identify these topics as the most important issue.

Demographic Trends
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.

  • Oregonians of color and whites are similarly worried about Oregon’s future (72% and 75% respectively) and both subgroups feel that homelessness is the most important issue they would like Oregon’s elected leaders to do something about (27% and 26% respectively) (Q1-2).
     
  • Urban and rural Oregonians feel similarly about Oregon’s future but differ in how they feel about the most important issue with 34% of urban respondents (41% in Multnomah County) identifying homelessness as the most important issue compared to 15% of rural residents, though it is still the number one issues for rural residents. For urban residents, affordable housing was mentioned second most often (14%) followed closely by climate change and environment (12%).  Rural Oregonians also had climate change and the environment in their top three (12%) along with Covid-19 (11%).  Rural Oregonians are more likely than Oregonians living elsewhere to be concerned about “open-up, back to school/work, freedom, end mandates” (Q1-2).
     
  • Younger Oregonians are less worried about Oregon’s future than older age groups, but still a strong majority (68%) are worried (Q1).  Younger Oregonians feel the same issues are important to address as do their older counterparts, but they may be a little less concerned about climate change and the environment and more concerned about affordable housing (Q2). 

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/).


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