POLL: Homelessness, crime and politicians amongst the biggest issues facing our region

POLL: Homelessness, crime and politicians amongst the biggest issues facing our region

The Alliance just released the results of a public opinion poll, conducted by DHM Research, designed to better understand the attitudes of voters throughout the region about key concerns, jobs and the economy. 

For more information, contact: [email protected]

Key Findings

  • 88% of voters polled say that quality of life is getting worse – up from 49% in 2017.
  • 62% of voters polled say that the Portland region is headed on the wrong track – up from only 26% in 2017.
  • Voters overwhelmingly support requiring people currently living outside to sleep in shelters or designated camping areas.
  • Most voters overwhelmingly support specific policies to address public safety. Most notably, 90% of voters polled “strongly” or “somewhat” support funding to require police officers to wear body worn cameras, while another 83% “strongly” or “somewhat” support funding to hire and train new police officers.
  • Voter trust in local elected officials regarding the economy and jobs is low. Notably, voter mistrust of local officials is at 66%.
  • 81% of polled voters view City Council as ineffective when it comes to providing public services.
  • A majority of Portland voters (56%) support a switch to a unified city government with a professional city manager that reports to City Council, with only 8% of voters opposing.
  • Stronger majorities support district elections of Portland city commissioners. Annual polling over time reveals that, for the last three years, 70% or more of voters have consistently supported moving to districts.

Survey Details

Each year, the Portland Business Alliance contracts with DHM Research to survey voters and better understand the shared experience of those who live here.

From December 9 to December 15, 2021, DHM Research conducted a survey of 500 registered voters in the tri-county area. 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.

This hybrid (phone and text-to-online) survey included 250 voters in the City of Portland, and 250 voters from Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties who do not live within the Portland boundary. This is a sufficient sample size to assess voter opinions generally and to review findings by multiple subgroups, including age, gender, region, and party affiliation. Statistical weighting by age, gender, region, and party affiliation allows us to ensure results are representative of registered voters. The margin of error for the full tri-county sample is +/- 4.4%; and the for the City of Portland sample is +/- 6.2%.

Voter Pessimism

Voters who think the region is off on the wrong track (62%) far exceed those who say it’s heading in the right direction (16%), with negativity even higher in Portland (76%) than in the rest of the tri-county area (53%). These negative perceptions have grown considerably. In January 2020, just 28% of voters felt the region was headed in the wrong direction. Outlook on quality of life also follows a similar trend, with nine in ten voters (88%) regionwide now saying quality of life is getting worse compared to roughly half of voters (49%) expressing such a negative outlook in January 2020.


In response to an open-ended question, nearly one in two voters (45%) in the region say that homelessness is the biggest issue facing our area at this time, up from 24% of voters in 2017 who cited it as the top issue. One in four voters (24%) now say crime is the biggest issue, up from merely 1% as late as January 2020. Intensifying concerns about homelessness and surging concerns about crime appear to be at the root of voter frustration with the direction of the region and are clearly impacting the public’s sense of safety. Notably, fewer voters (7%) now cite COVID-19 as the top issue as compared to 26% in December 2020; and fewer point to jobs and the economy (3%) as the top issue as compared to 22% in December 2020.

Roughly eight in ten voters (83%) in the region support requiring people who are currently living outside to sleep in shelters or designated camping locations, including 79% of Portland voters and 86% of voters in the remaining tri-county area. Strong support for this proposal is shared by groups who might otherwise disagree on policy matters. Regardless of age, gender, race, educational attainment, or even political affiliation, a minimum of three in four voters in every demographic group supports this proposal to address homelessness.

Approaches to Public Safety

Portlanders are split when it comes to the best way to address public safety. About half want investments in housing options and social services for homeless people (49%) and half want authorities to get tougher
on crime and to enforce existing laws (49%). Elsewhere in the tri-county area, fewer think investing in social services is the answer (38%) and more prefer a tough-on-crime approach (60%).

Despite these general differences of opinion, voters throughout the region express overwhelming support for specific proposals to address public safety. These include funding to hire and train new police officers (83%), funding to hire more prosecutors to investigate and prosecute violent crimes (79%), and funding to require police officers to wear body worn cameras (90%). Agreement on these specific issues extends to other issues as well. Within Portland, majorities want an increase in funding for community groups who provide programs to increase public safety (72%) and they also want increases in funding for police (58%), suggesting that most voters do not see these approaches as mutually exclusive.

Economic Outlook

When it comes to economic issues, about one in two voters are very concerned about cost of living (52%) and affordable housing (51%), but far fewer say they are very concerned about jobs (16%). Concerns about cost of living have surged in the last year (from 38% very concerned in December 2020 to 52% in December 2021), but concerns about jobs have diminished (from 32% to 16%) in the same period.

While six in ten voters (61%) say their households are either faring better (24%) or about the same (37%) economically compared to two years ago, about four in ten say they are worse off (38%). About four in ten (39%) also say economic opportunities in the Portland region for their household are poor. Voters without a college degree (53%), People of Color (45%), and women (43%) are more likely to say they are worse off. Older voters age 55+ (47%) are also more likely to say they are worse off; as more of these voters are on fixed incomes, they are likely feeling the pressures from cost-of-living increases.

Portland Governance & Trust

Consistent with their view that the area is off on the wrong track, more than eight in ten Portland voters (81%) consider their City Council ineffective in providing public services, up from 55% in December 2020. Most voters blame both the Council’s leadership (74%) and the City’s commission form of government (70%) for Portland’s challenges. Although many Portland voters (36%) remain uncertain, a majority (56%) supports a shift to a unified government with a city manager reporting to Council. An even bigger majority (70%) supports a shift to district elections for commissioners.


The Portland Business Alliance
The Portland Business Alliance is Greater Portland’s Chamber of Commerce. With nearly 1,900 members, the Alliance strives to promote and foster an environment in the Portland region that attracts, supports and retains private-sector jobs, spurs economic vitality and enables quality educational opportunities for the region's residents. Learn more at