Poll: Oregonians are optimistic about future economic outlook

Oregonians have retained a sunny outlook about their state and future in spite of the grim health and economiceffects of the pandemic and grueling public health measures to control it, according to a new survey commissioned by the state’s largest business lobbying group.

“Optimism in the economy has declined, which we would expect, but people are very optimistic about the future,” said pollster Bob Moore of Moore Information Group. “Despite what’s going on, it doesn’t have them down.”

Another surprise in the results was how similarly Oregonians rated their quality of life compared with late in 2019, Moore said: 23% of respondents said it improved over the previous decade and 36% said it declined, the exact same split as two years ago.

The survey also documented how financial hardships of the pandemic and recession have hit a portion of the population while others continued to fare well. More than one-third of people surveyed said they were financially better off now than a year ago, and 35% said their financial condition was the same. Twenty-seven percent said they were worse off than a year ago.

Moore Information Group surveyed 500 registered voters by landline and cell phone on Jan. 4-7. Oregon Business & Industry paid for the poll.

Oregonians rated the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the state’s most important problem and jobs and the economy as the second biggest challenge.

Survey respondents ranked homelessness as the third most important problem, down from the No. 1 problem in 2019, according to the poll paid for by Oregon Business & Industry.

Affordable housing slipped from the second biggest issue in 2019 to the fifth in 2021, pollsters found.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kate Brown’s job approval increased significantly to 46%, up from 37% 14 months earlier. People were roughly split on her response to the pandemic, with 48% expressing support and 47% disapproval.

The poll also gathered voters’ responses to some of the talking points Oregon Business & Industry could use this legislative session to try to fend off potential tax increases, such as whether state lawmakers should to stick to “priority items like the state budget, assisting businesses and people hurt by COVID and other COVID issues” because “the public will not be able to enter the state Capitol to talk to legislators and much of the process will be conducted virtually by Zoom or other technology.”

Fifty-four percent of respondents said the Legislature should stick to “only priority items” while 40% said the Legislature should still “address a long list of issues as it would typically in other non-pandemic years when people were able to meet with their legislators.”

Democratic lawmakers have expressed interest in trimming tax benefits for businesses and upper income Oregonians, including a new tax break created in 2020 that only benefits the top 1% of earners in the state. Due to the structure of Oregon’s tax code, this and other state tax breaks are automatically copied from federal tax code unless lawmakers step in to prevent it.

Oregon lawmakers debating whether to cancel new tax break for top 1%

Brown’s budget blueprint released in December generally proposed to continue to provide the current level of government services. But she pushed for a few major changes such as closing three minimum security prisons and adding more than 7,000 preschool slots for children from low- and moderate-income families. The governor also proposed a $190 million pot for potential public employee raises and other compensation increases such as higher or lower monthly health insurance premiums it may negotiate with labor unions. Lawmakers are ultimately responsible for building the state budget.

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