Each year in March (apart from the chaotic month of March 2020) DHM Research asks Oregonians questions about their perceptions of the environment in anticipation of Earth Day. In this year’s survey, we find that perceptions of climate change have changed little despite a historic wildfire season in Oregon. While most Oregonians believe in climate change driven by human activity, and are concerned about its harms, these topline findings obscure large differences among residents-especially by political affiliation.
We also asked about two policy debates that are happening at the local and state levels: bans on new natural gas hook ups and a requirement that all electricity to come from clean sources by 2035. Oregonians strongly oppose the former but are open to the latter.
These findings come from the March 2021 fielding of our DHM Panel. The survey was conducted from March 7 to 14, 2021, and surveyed N=600 Oregonians. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education. The margin of error for this survey ranges from ±2.4% to ±4.0% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question.
Majorities of Oregonians say global temperatures are rising due to human activity, express concerns about being personally harmed by climate change, and call for Oregon to take additional steps to combat climate change.
A scant majority of 52% say there is solid evidence that average temperatures have been rising on account of human activity, while an additional 22% ascribe the increase to natural patterns. In all, 74% say temperatures are rising. Fewer Oregonians say we don’t know enough yet (12%), deny that temperatures are increasing (4%), or are unsure (10%). These results are largely consistent with those observed in DHM Research surveys from the past few years.
There are clear differences in opinion on this topic by political affiliation, with Democrats overwhelmingly ascribing temperature increases to human activity and Republicans particularly skeptical.
Beyond differences by political affiliation, those with higher socio-economic status are more likely to say that temperatures are rising on account of human activity.
Six in ten (61%) Oregonians say they are concerned that global climate change will harm them personally in their lifetimes.
These topline figures belie strong demographic differences, most notably by partisanship. While 85% of Democrats and 56% of NAV/Others are concerned about harms, only 37% of Republicans share this stance.
Younger Oregonians are also more concerned (58-71%), with those ages 65 and older the only age cohort for who less than a majority are concerned (49%).
Concern is also higher among Oregonians with a college degree (71%), those with children at home (69%), tri-county residents (67%), and women (67%).
Nearly as many Oregonians (57%) say that the state should do more to combat climate change, while 26% say the state should not, and 17% are unsure.
Looking at partisan differences, we find that while the perceptions of Democrats and NAV/Others have largely remained consistent, the proportion of Republicans who call for additional actions has risen modestly since March 2018.
Likely related to age trends seen for personal concerns about climate change, Oregonians under the age of 45 (66%) are more likely to call for the state to take action than those who are older (47-53%).
The belief that Oregon should take more steps is also higher among residents under the age of 45 (66%), those with children at home (67%), people with a college degree (66%), tri-county residents (66%), and women (62%).
A majority of Oregonians support the state shifting to clean energy sources by 2035. By and large they expect such a change to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions and the harms of climate change, with the tradeoff of increased electricity prices.
A majority of 60% support (31% strongly, 29% somewhat) requiring Oregon’s electricity to come from clean energy sources by 2035. In addition, 13% somewhat oppose the proposal, 17% strongly oppose it, and 11% are unsure.
There are notable differences in opinion on this potential policy by key demographics such as party, age, area of the state, and gender.
Asked about the impacts such a policy might have, a majority of Oregonians say that air quality will improve (57%). Pluralities say that carbon emissions (47%) and the risks of climate change (46%) will decrease. Oregonians also identify a clear tradeoff: 59% believe this policy will increase electricity prices.
In general, Republicans, NAV/Others, men, older Oregonians, and those living in the rest of state area were less positive than others about the potential impacts of a clean energy requirement by 2035.
Support for a ban on natural gas hookups is low, and Oregonians clearly favor a transition to renewable natural gas and hydrogen over a ban on new hookups.
Several communities on the west coast are considering local bans on new natural gas hooks up for homes and businesses. Oregonians broadly oppose such policies. Fewer than a third of Oregonians (29%) support their local government banning new natural gas hookups to homes and businesses. A clear majority oppose such policies, with strong opposition outweighing overall support.
While no group favors a local ban on hookups, support is comparatively higher among those under the age of 45 (35-44%) and Democrats (37%).
Opposition is particularly strong among those ages 65 and older (75%), Republicans (69%), men (64%), rest of state residents (58%), and those with incomes of $100K and higher (67-75%).
In contrast, when given the choice between bans on natural gas hook ups and requiring natural gas utilities to transition to renewable natural gas and renewable hydrogen, a clear majority prefer requiring a transition to renewable options (65%) over banning new hookups (6%). That said, 29% are unsure, suggesting broad unfamiliarity with the particulars of these potential policies.
There were no notable demographic differences for this question.
The research was completed as a community service by DHM Research in partnership with the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. Both organizations are independent and non-partisan. DHM Research is a Certified B Corporation (www.dhmresearch.com) and OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (www.oregonvbc.org).