post illustration for survey

Oregonians are deeply pessimistic about the state’s direction, increasingly worried about homelessness and crime and overwhelmingly opposed to tax increases in the event of a budget shortfall, according to a survey of 500 likely voters in late April. The survey was conducted by DHM Research, whose senior vice president, John Horvick, presented the results at OBI’s Annual Meeting May 17.

Perhaps the most striking result is the share of Oregonians who believe the state is headed in the right direction. At only 25%, it represents a 20-year low. Even in 2003, when Oregon had the nation’s highest unemployment rate, residents were slightly more optimistic.

Forty one percent identified homelessness as the most important problem facing Oregon today, significantly outstripping crime and public safety (25%), housing affordability (13%) and politicians/government (13%). Notably, the percentage of Oregonians who identified homelessness as Oregon’s top problem has roughly doubled since 2021, when it was cited by 21% of those surveyed.

In keeping with their views on the state’s general direction, Oregonians increasingly believe that economic conditions in the state are getting worse. Fifty two percent of those surveyed believe economic conditions are worsening, up from 45% in August 2022. Only 9%, said conditions are improving.

The state’s most recent Economic and Revenue Forecast released May 17, predicts that “Oregon’s economy will slow noticeably in the upcoming 2023-25 biennium.” And a near-term recession, though “far from a slam dunk,” is possible.

If a recession were to happen and a budget shortfall materialize, however, a stunning 74% of Oregonians say the state should reduce spending to match available revenue rather than raise taxes. This preference is shared by Democrats (60%), Republicans (89%) and nonaffiliated voters (79%). It’s also consistent across the state. In fact, the percentage of respondents in the Portland area who’d rather cut spending than raise taxes (76%) exceeds the percentage in the rest of the state (74%).

In keeping with survey results, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted May 18 that “Portlanders are overburdened by collective increased taxes, utility rates & fees. I hear from small business owners & residents daily who are hitting their limit. Some are moving out of PDX as a result.”

As OBI’s research has illustrated, an expanding array of local, county and regional taxes has given Portland the nation’s second highest combined state and local marginal income tax rate. Only New York City’s is higher. On May 16, Multnomah County voters crushed a measure that would have created a capital gains tax to hire lawyers for people facing eviction.

And speaking of taxation, Oregonians overwhelmingly oppose the use of tax revenue to fund political campaigns. While 75% of those surveyed would support a law capping political campaign contributions, 82% oppose the use of state government funds to pay for political campaigns.

Finally, while less than half of Oregonians have a positive impression of President Biden (43%) and Gov. Tina Kotek (41%), 80% have a positive impression of their employers. They also support policies that would help employers succeed. More than half (53%) believe the state should use tax incentives to encourage entrepreneurs and employers to grow and locate their businesses in Oregon. And 71% believe the state should pause new regulations until businesses have adjusted to existing regulations.

The survey was conducted from April 24-26 and has a 4.4% margin of error.