Poll: Oregonians hold negative views of governor, mixed on state’s COVID-19 response

By Lauren Dake (OPB)
March 18, 2021 7:07 p.m. Updated: March 18, 2021 7:33 p.m.

Majorities said they support increasing the state’s minimum wage to $17 an hour in 2022, oppose allowing prisoners to vote. Survey participants said homelessness is the state’s most pressing crisis.

A woman wearing a mask and a business suit clasps her hands together while standing in an empty grade-school classroom.

Gov. Kate Brown tours Sitton Elementary in Portland, Oregon, on March 5, Brown’s approval numbers were low in a recent DHM Research poll, though her push to get Oregon students back in the classrooms was well received.

Eder Campuzano / Pool photo via Oregonlive/The Oregonian

It’s one year into the pandemic and Oregon has managed to contain the spread of COVID-19 better than most of the states in the nation.


From the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown issued strict policies to curb the spread of the virus.

Yet, a recent poll conducted by DHM Research from March 7 to 14 released this week revealed only 11% of those polled had a “very positive” impression of the governor and 26% of those polled had a “somewhat positive” impression of her. But 57% had either a “somewhat negative” or “very negative” impression of Brown.

“I’m surprised the numbers have fallen as far as they have, but the broader context is, she has never been particularly popular,” said John Horvick, with DHM, who conducted the poll. “She has been polarizing. She is as disliked by Republicans as Democrats dislike Donald Trump.”

DHM is a nonpartisan and independent organization that conducted the poll as a community service. The online survey polled 600 Oregonians older than the age of 18 years old. The margin of error is plus or minus 4%.

Brown’s approval numbers are low despite many of her COVID-19-related decisions being largely well received, particularly the push to get Oregon students back in the classrooms.

“She gets good marks on her big, bold decisions around schools but it doesn’t show up in her popularity,” Horvick said.

As a point of comparison, the poll showed President Joe Biden had a 28% “very positive” rating; Les Schwab Tires had a 36% “very positive” impression rate; Oregon Public Broadcasting had a 31% “very positive” impression; public school teachers had a 31% “very positive” impression and unions that represent public school teachers had an 18% “very positive” rating.

The survey asked Oregonians to weigh in on their impressions of key leaders, but also legislative policies and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccinations and schools reopening.

Overall, 40% of those polled felt the state was headed in the right direction and 45% thought it was headed in the wrong direction, while 15% said they weren’t sure.


The Oregon Health Authority recently told OPB all Oregonians will be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by May 1. But even with the light at the end of the tunnel, about 60% of those surveyed are still very worried or somewhat worried about the spread of COVID-19 in the community. About 48% of those surveyed have been very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the vaccine rollout in the state.

One of the more controversial decisions the governor made was to prioritize vaccinating teachers and school employees ahead of seniors. Respondents were nearly split on how they felt about that decision, with 46% agreeing with the decision and 45% disagreeing with her choice.

On March 5, the governor called on all Oregon public schools to return to hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. The requirement takes effect later this month for elementary students and April 19 for middle and high school students. An overwhelming 65% of respondents agreed with Brown’s order to require elementary schools to offer hybrid or in-person learning by March 29 and 61% approved of making elementary schools do the same by April 19. At the same time, 67% felt the decision about how and when schools would reopen should be a decision left up to local school districts.

The majority of those polled, 52%, disapprove or strongly disapprove with the way Brown has responded to the outbreak overall.

Legislative session

The 2021 Oregon legislative session is underway. And while lawmakers have a myriad of crises to tackle — from the pandemic, to the wildfires, to unemployment and racial justice — the issue Oregonians surveyed see as the most pressing is the ongoing homelessness crisis.

Following homelessness and poverty issues, the Oregonians surveyed want lawmakers to address: environmental and climate change issues; COVID-19 and vaccinations; the economy; education and sending kids back to school; taxes and the budget; and jobs and unemployment.

One of the big considerations in Salem this session has a lot of support from those polled: 60% support the idea of eliminating mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent crimes.

If Measure 11, which created mandatory minimum sentences, were on the ballot today, it would struggle to pass, Horvick said.


“But overturning the status quo is hard,” he added.

Another idea floating around the state Capitol that garnered support in the poll is an effort to allow school districts, state and local governments and other public entities to prohibit firearms in their buildings, with 59% of respondents supporting the idea.

Allowing prisoners to vote while incarcerated, however, does not have a lot of support. Oregon would become the third state in the nation to allow prisoners to vote under a couple of proposals being considered this session. Among the 600 people polled, 53% opposed the idea.

Here is a look at some other legislative issues Oregonians were asked about:

Response category - sample size 600Strongly supportSomewhat supportSomewhat opposeStrongly opposeDon’t know
Prohibit police from using pepper spray except when riots are officially declared23%21%17%30%8%
Require employers with fewer than 25 employees to provide 12 weeks of protected leave for employees to care for a newborn, treat a serious health condition, or other qualifying family and medical reasons36%28%12%11%11%

When it comes to housing, the Oregonians surveyed were overwhelmingly supportive of extending the COVID-19 eviction moratorium to Sept. 1, 2021, with 60% either strongly or somewhat supporting. More than 70% of those surveyed support creating a tax credit for landlords who have lost rent due to tenants’ inability to pay during the pandemic.

An idea to increase the state’s minimum wage to $17 an hour statewide by July 1, 2022, garnered support, with 51% of respondents saying they agree with the idea.

Here are some of the other big legislative topics currently being considered that DHM asked Oregonians to weigh in on:

Response category - sample size 600Strongly supportSomewhat supportSomewhat opposeStrongly opposeDon’t know
Require 100% of the electricity sold to Oregon customers be from clean energy sources by 203531%29%13%17%11%
Require the State Highway Fund to increase the minimum spending on pedestrian and biking projects from 1 percent to 5 percent18%27%21%19%16%
Require producers to share with customers the cost of handling and recycling their products and packaging18%35%13%11%23%
Increase taxes on beer, cider and wine to fund behavioral health and substance abuse programs26%26%16%28%5%

House Democrats have recently unveiled big proposals to address air pollution and carbon emissions from diesel fuel in Oregon. One idea would eventually end the sale of diesel fuel in the state. Republican lawmakers and industry groups aren’t the only ones giving the idea some pushback: 44% of those surveyed were somewhat or strongly opposed to prohibiting diesel sales.


The once-a-decade process of drawing new district maps known as redistricting will happen this year. The process comes with a lot of responsibility as it can help dictate which political party holds power for the next decade.

This year will be particularly crucial since Oregon is expected to gain an additional seat to the U.S. House of Representatives. Currently, there are four Democrats and one Republican representing Oregon in the U.S. House.

DHM pollsters asked respondents what they think the most reasonable partisan makeup should be after the new lines are drawn and elections are held and 37% said three Democrats and three Republicans should fill the seats.

And finally, when those surveyed were asked what they are looking forward to when the pandemic is over, the ability to stop wearing masks topped the list, followed by having the ability to travel, spending time with family and friends, living without fear and the having the ability to go to the movies again, were also listed, among others.