In response to COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place order, Oregonians’ travel and transportation habits were forced to change. We are curious to know how Oregonians adapted their habits, what their current outlook is, and their expectations for the future.
These findings come from the fielding of the monthly DHM-OVBC Oregon Values and Beliefs Panel Survey. The online survey was conducted from May 29-June 7, 2020. It surveyed 900 Oregonians. To ensure a representative statewide sample, demographic quotas were set, and the data was weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education. The survey’s margin of error is ±2.0% to ±3.3% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question.
How Has COVID-19 Affected Oregonians?
COVID-19 has changed how we live. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Oregonians reported that the pandemic has changed their daily routines. All of the changes relate to limiting the exposure and transmission of COVID-19. Respondents are purchasing masks (52%), washing their hands more frequently (73%), and avoiding physical contact with others (71%). For some, the pandemic has meant working from home (18%) and having children stay at home (18%).
Is This the New Normal?
COVID-19 has forced Oregonians to adapt. We wanted to measure which of these changes were felt by Oregonians to be desirable, and whether they felt the change would be temporary or permanent. Oregonians perceived driving less and spending more time locally as a very desirable change (51%) but did not expect it to be permanent (10%).
Ordering goods online was not seen as desirable change (18%), but most respondents believe it will be a permanent one (59%). Oregonians appear uncertain about telemedicine. Forty-one percent (41%) of respondents see the new reliance on telemedicine as temporary, while 32% expect it to be permanent.
Will environmentally sustainable behavior stick?
We asked Oregonians how likely they would do be to behave in certain ways as the state came out of the coronavirus pandemic in order to reduce CO2 emissions. About 50% of respondents believe they are likely or somewhat likely to maintain the environmentally sustainable behaviors, with a high of 63% believing they are likely to live a simpler lifestyle and a low of 27% feeling they would work less.
Revenue generated from the gas tax is also projected to decrease and is already not keeping up with the cost of repairing roads. Given this problem, we asked Oregonians if they would be willing to fund a mileage-based user fee program as an alternate way to fund transportation.
More Oregonians oppose a mileage-based user fee program (46%) than support it (40%). Again, an important portion of Oregonians remain unsure (14%). Opponents are stronger in their opposition (29% strongly oppose) than supporters in their support (14%). The uncertainty and overall narrow difference between those who oppose and those who support these measures suggests that a strong campaign on either side of the issue could make the difference.
The results from both measures vary significantly based on political affiliation and education of the respondents. Respondents with a university degree supported both measures, 51% support for the mileage-based user fee program and 56% support for amending the Oregon Constitution and allow greater flexibility to spend gas tax revenue. This is far more than the 36% and 42% support rates for respondents with a high school diploma.
Democrats tend to support both measures, but their support appears stronger for increasing the flexibility of gas tax revenue (65%). Republicans are strongly opposed to both measures. In both cases, NAV/Other falls in between Democrats and Republicans. NAV/Other appear to be more on the side of Republicans and in opposition to the mileage-based user fee program and are squarely in between the two major parties on redirect gas tax revenue.
Oregonians have adapted many of their behaviors in response to COVID-19, including transportation ones. It is still unclear which of these new behaviors are here to stay and which will subside as we transition out of the pandemic. Oregonians are split on hypothetical measures to increase spending flexibility of revenue from the gas tax and the implementation of mileage-based user fee program. The future of these measures will likely come down to how NAV/Other vote and the effectiveness of the campaigns on both sides.