POLL: Voter pessimism has leveled off but homelessness and crime remain top issues facing our region
From December 8 to December 14, 2022, 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 multiple policy proposals.
- 78% of voters say that quality of life is getting worse – down from 88% in 2021.
- 52% of voters say the Portland region is headed on the wrong track – down from 62% in 2021.
- Four in ten voters rate their economic opportunities as poor or very poor.
- Voters are more concerned about affordable housing (49% very concerned), and cost of living (45%) than they are about jobs.
- 61% of voters state taxes are too high.
- Multnomah County voters support multiple policies to address public safety and affordable housing/houselessness.
- A majority of Portland voters (47%) oppose funding a tenant resource program with a capital gains tax, with 40% of voters showing support.
- Portland residents are split as to whether to continue funding affordable housing bond measures whereas the rest of region leans to opposing future measures.
- Voters outside of Portland generally feel unsafe going downtown during the day or night, most of the region’s residents feel unsafe in downtown Portland at night (69%).
SURVEY DETAILSEach 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 8 to December 14, 2022, 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 PESSIMISMHalf of voters (52%) think the region is off on the wrong track, with negativity higher in Portland (62%) than in the rest of the tri-county area (47%). Although negative perceptions are relatively high compared to historical trends, this represents an improvement compared to 2021 (62% of all voters then said the region was on the wrong track). Similarly, while outlook on quality of life remains pessimistic, for the first time in two years the year-over-year trend showed declines in negativity (78% said quality of life in the region was getting worse compared to 88% last year).
HOMELESSNESS AND CRIMEWhen asked in an open-ended question to identify the biggest issue facing our region, voters point most often to homelessness (34%) and crime (19%). Trends here also suggest voters are feeling better about the direction of our region: both these were a greater concern last year, with 45% then identifying homelessness and 24% identifying crime as top issues. In addition, although a majority say that they are very concerned about homelessness (72%) and crime (52%), level of concern has remained stable or lessened slightly compared to last year (decreases of 4–6% points).The overall trend suggests that voters sense some progress is being made–while still making clear that they expect to see continued progress.
ECONOMIC OUTLOOKWhen it comes to economic outlook, voter mood is similar to last year. About four in ten rate their economic opportunities as poor or very poor (38%) or say that their household is worse off economically compared to two years ago (38%). Voters outside of Portland are more pessimistic on both counts: more say opportunities are poor or very poor (41% vs 32% of those in Portland) and more say they are worse off (42% vs 29%). Voters are more concerned about affordable housing (49% very concerned) and cost of living (45%) than they are about jobs (12%). Given voter concern about their expenses, it is perhaps not surprising that 61% say taxes are too high.
AFFORDABLE HOUSINGMultnomah County voters support multiple policy proposals that could address concerns on public safety, affordable housing, and houselessness:
- Establish a City of Portland Municipal Court (71% support).
- Hire more neighborhood-based prosecutors (60% support).
- Incentive program for affordable housing (69% support).
- Large designated camping areas and ban on unsanctioned camping (68% support).
MULTNOMAH COUNTY VOTER PRIORITIESWhen asked to evaluate a specific policy to fund a tenant resource program with an adjustable capital gains tax, opposition (47%) outweighs support (40%), with an additional 12% unsure. Opposition to this proposal could come from the specific funding mechanism (capital gains tax) or the thought of paying more taxes in general. Nonetheless, for the past several years, Portland and Multnomah County voters have been willing to fund progressive policy solutions–and the number of undecided voters may point to a possible narrow path for this proposal to pass.
Although voters largely agree that affordable housing is an issue to address, they are split as to whether they would be willing to fund bonds to address the issue. Specifically, when asked about whether they would support a future bond similar to the current Metro government affordable housing bond after the Metro bond ends, 42% of voters support and 45% oppose (a gap within the margin of error for this sample size), while 13% say they are unsure. Support is somewhat higher in Portland (47% vs 38% in rest of region)—it may be more accurate to say that Portland residents are split as to whether to continue funding affordable housing bond measures whereas the rest of the region leans to opposing future measures. Reasons to support the bond are similar across the region: there is clear need for more affordable housing, voters want to support vulnerable populations (including people like themselves who cannot afford housing), and the cost of houses are high. Reasons for opposing a future bond are similar across the region as well: mistrust in government, belief that little progress has been made, and feeling that taxes are currently too high.
DOWNTOWN SAFETYThe majority (64%) of Portland voters feel safe in downtown Portland during the day, whereas less than half (40%) of those living outside of Portland feel safe downtown during the day. Regardless of where they live, majorities feel unsafe in downtown Portland at night (69% of Portland voters, 82% of those in rest of region).
About DHM Research:
"DHM Research is an independent research firm that specializes in measuring the values and priorities that drive public opinion. Our research provides high-quality, objective information to help organizations and leaders make informed decisions about complex issues. We have decades of experience in polling, public policy research and how it can help shape communities. DHM is proud to be recognized as a B Corp certified company that meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
About the Portland Business Alliance:
The Portland Business Alliance – Greater Portland's Chamber of Commerce – was founded in 1870 and represents the largest, most diverse business network in the region. The Alliance brings together more than 2,100 members represented by dynamic and varied employers from around the Portland region, and offers a strong source of support, information, advocacy, engagement and professional development opportunities. Grounded in its mission to create opportunity and advance well-being for all who live and work in the Greater Portland and SW Washington region, the Alliance envisions a healthy and resilient business ecosystem where we work together to increase collaboration in governance; engage community; increase civic leadership; and, advocate for a vibrant, livable region for all.