Poll: Northwest Residents Feel Economy Is Steady

By Amanda Peacher (OPB)
Oct. 22, 2015 7 a.m.

Voters in Oregon and Washington feel that the economy is holding steady. That's according to a poll commissioned by OPB earlier this month. DHM Research asked 4oo Oregonians and 400 Washingtonians about their perspective on the direction of their state, the economy, and their own personal financial health. The poll's margin of error is 3.5 percent. But for individual states it is 4.9 percent.

In both rural and urban areas, people think the economy is steady or improving


Most Northwest residents think that the economy in the Northwest is either improving, or is staying the same. Only about 20 percent of those surveyed in both states said they felt it was getting worse. Richard Slope is a retired bus driver in Prineville. He said he feels it's easier for him personally to get by, but he's worried about young people.

"Gas prices are starting to come down now," Slope said. "But I'd really like to see more job opportunities, for young people instead of McDonald's, you know?"

Seventy-nine year old Donna Eppenbach lives in Irrigon, Oregon. She said that agriculture has helped her area's economy remain afloat.

"We have farming and vegetable plants around here, that some places in Oregon don't," Eppenbach said. "Up here our economy is pretty good."

Twenty-two year old Shelbi Thompson lives in Halfway, Oregon. She cleans hotel rooms for a living, and was one of the respondents who said the economy seems to be improving.

"In my little community, yes," said Thompson. "More jobs are opening up. People are moving here. People are finding jobs where there normally wasn't jobs. There's farming jobs, school jobs, gas stations and grocery stores."


The responses track with Oregon's unemployment record. Although September's 6.2 percent unemployment was up a point from a low in April, it's much lower than the 10 or 11 percent rate during much of the Great Recession.

The survey also showed that fears about personal finances are subsiding. Forty-three percent of Oregonians reported feeling worried about their finances. When OPB asked people about their finances in April 2015, 50 percent of Oregonians said they felt worried.

"We're very stable. I'm retired, so it's not me that I have concern for--it's concern for my children and grandchildren," said John Addison, a former pilot in Sisters. "My generation has done well, and I have concerns about what's going to be left for them."

Stable economy,  uncertain future

Northwest residents' confidence in the economy doesn't necessarily translate to a confidence that the state is headed in a positive direction.  Only 40 percent of Oregonians think that things are headed in the right direction. That's down from 49 percent in April 2015. That number also fell in Washington by a few points: 44 percent felt their state was on the right track in April, now down to 41 percent.

"Oregon has some of the most horrendous schools in the country," said Rick Schindler, who lives in Rogue River.

"Having our son just graduate from elementary school, their school was rated a 2. And I think that's absolutely horrendous because education is what's going to drive the ability of this country to move forward in the future," said Schindler.

Some respondents said their negative perspective was shaped by their view of Oregon's tax structure.

"People that come through here to enjoy the scenery don't pay any sales tax. And that creates an imbalance, " said Addison. He would like to see the state be more tax-friendly for businesses.

But Thompson feels like the state is on the right track because the government provides strong safety nets. "I like Oregon. Oregon is willing to lend out a helping hand to those people."