Homelessness, tax rates and overall economic health top concerns in latest survey
At the start of each year, we coordinate with the teams at DHM Research, to take a pulse check on voter sentiment throughout the region.
The survey is designed to better understand how voters are feeling, and to highlight top concerns in our community. As a service to the greater Portland community, we share this information to raise awareness and understanding.
- Despite an unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and growing concerns about the economy and crime, homelessness remains the primary concern in the tri-county region.
- If two in three voters in the region are living comfortably or doing okay, one in three say they are experiencing economic difficulties and are worse off than they were two years ago.
- A majority of voters in the region favor an economic development strategy that both supports small businesses and makes the area attractive to large employers—rejecting the view that pits one approach against the other.
- Most voters believe local governments in the region should maintain or lower tax rates and funding for programs and services.
- Job ratings for Portland City Council have declined significantly in the past year.
Despite an unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and growing concerns about the economy and crime, homelessness remains the primary concern in the tri-county region.
One-third of voters in the tri-county region say, in an open-ended format, that homelessness is the biggest issue facing our area at this time (32%). The next three issues receiving biggest mentions are COVID-19 (26%), crime (16%), and the economy (14%). These other three issues were either non-existent or barely present in the consciousness of voters surveyed a year ago. Within the city of Portland itself, concern about homelessness casts an ever-growing shadow over all other issues: a majority of voters (52%) now say that homelessness is the biggest issues, a 10-point increase from a year ago. Crime (22%) and COVID-19 (19%) receive the second and third biggest mentions.
In the remainder of the region, voters consider COVID-19 (30%) as the biggest issue, with homelessness (19%) and the economy (15%) receiving the second and third biggest mentions.
HOW ARE PEOPLE DOING?
If two in three voters in the region are living comfortably or doing okay, one in three say they are experiencing economic difficulties and are worse off than they were two years ago.
Roughly two in three voters say they are living comfortably (29%) or doing okay (38%), but one in three say they are just getting by (20%) or finding it difficult to get by (11%). Those who say economic opportunities in the Portland region are good or very good has declined from 76% in January 2019 to 67% in January 2020 to 49% in December 2020. One in three (33%) say their household is economically worse off than two years ago. A year ago, in January 2020, when asked the same question, only 18% of voters said they were worse off.
Across all three of these indicators—how voters say that they are managing economically, how they feel about economic opportunities in the region, and whether they consider their households better, the same, or worse off than two years ago—voters age 18–34, People of Color, and those with only a high school education are more likely than voters who are older, White, and college educated to report negative perceptions.
BALANCE OF SMALL & LARGE BUSINESS ECOSYSTEM
A majority of voters in the region favor an economic development strategy that both supports small businesses and makes the area attractive to large employers—rejecting the view that pits one approach against the other.
Presented with three possible economic development strategies—promoting small and locally-owned businesses, attracting and retaining larger businesses, or a hybrid that fosters both small and large businesses—a majority of voters in the region (59%) favor the hybrid strategy. Only 24% of voters favor a strategy focused primarily on creating small, locally-owned businesses, while even fewer (11%) prefer a strategy focused on large employers. There is consensus among voters across the region on this preferred hybrid approach, with only minor differences between voters in Portland and the rest of the Tri-county area.
SUPPORT FOR STABILIZING TAXES
Most voters believe local governments in the region should maintain or lower tax rates and funding for programs and services.
Three in four voters in the region (75%) believe local governments should either keep tax rates and funding for programs and services at their current levels (43%) or lower taxes and reduce funding (32%), with only a small minority (17%) favoring increases. A majority of Portland voters (59%) favor maintaining (41%) or reducing (18%) taxes and services, with a minority (32%) favoring increases. Elsewhere in the Tri-county region most voters (79%) favor maintaining (42%) or reducing (27%) taxes and services, with a smaller minority (23%) favoring increases. Despite this view, roughly two in three Portland voters favor an additional local fee or carbon tax on large entities (64%–69% respectively, depending on how the issue is framed), likely because voters believe such fees or taxes may not affect their households directly.
PORTLAND CITY LEADERSHIP
Job ratings for Portland City Council have declined significantly in the past year.
Only one in three Portland voters (34%) view City Council as effective in providing public services to the community—a drop of 20 points since January 2020. Among Portland voters, only half (50%) trust local elected officials on economic issues—a drop of 15 points since January 2019.
While a majority of Portland voters (55%) supported the City Council’s June 2020 decision to reduce police funding by $15 million, only 39% support the proposal from activists to reduce funding by an additional $35 million.
At some point, a key decision affecting City Council will likely be put to voters: whether to amend the City Charter to allow for district elections of city commissioners. Two in three Portland voters (65%) support the change, though support does not correlate with perceptions of job performance. The biggest supporters of district elections are those who say they are worse off economically (75%), suggesting that economic frustration may be a key driver.
SURVEY METHOD & ANALYSIS:
From December 10 to December 15, 2020 DHM Research conducted a hybrid (phone and text-to-online) survey of tri-county voters. The purpose of the survey was to track opinions about the economy, jobs, and community issues over time, as well as to measure support for local governance and policy proposals.
The hybrid survey consisted of 548 registered voters and took approximately 16 minutes to complete. The sample included 250 voters in the City of Portland, and 298 voters from Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties who do not live within the City of Portland boundary. This is a sufficient sample size to assess voter opinions generally and to review findings by multiple subgroups, including age, gender, and area of the region.
Statistical weighting allows us to ensure results are representative of registered voters. Researchers weight to registered voter profile by age, gender, region, and party registration.