POLL: Oregon voters disapprove of Portland protests, call them 'mostly violent riots' and want more police force

A recent survey found that a majority of Oregon voters do not believe the Portland protests to be "mostly peaceful" and a plurality urge police to use greater force to quell the violence.
Mia Cathell The Post Millennial

A recent survey found that a majority of Oregon voters do not believe the Portland protests to be "mostly peaceful" and a plurality urge police to use greater force to quell the violence.

DHM Research, a Portland-based research firm, conducted a statewide study that that focused on voter opinions on the relentless protests that have continued in Oregon's largest city for over 100 days since George Floyd's death in May, causing millions of dollars in property damage and disturbing civilians in residential neighborhoods.

A split was evident throughout the poll among age and racial demographics. Rioters tend to skew younger and identify as BIPOC and LGBT.

Most Oregonians believe that the protests in Portland have been "mostly violent." At the same time, just 29 percent feel that the Portland police have used too much force.

DHS Research survey results published Sept. 10, 2020

56 percent of Oregon voters believe that the Portland protests have been "mostly violent" while 36 percent think that the consecutive nights of rioting have been "mostly peaceful." 7 percent are unsure.

Partisan differences have characterised voter assessments. 57 percent of Democrats feel that the protests have been "mostly peaceful" compared to 83 percent of Republicans who assert that the civil disturbances have been "mostly violent."

Oregon voters are more likely to believe that Portland police have not used enough force in their crowd control tactics. 42 percent advocate for heftier dispersal methods compared to 29 percent who want softer responses, which over half of the 18 through 29 age range and minority voters constitute. Just above a quarter feel that police use the right amount and 11 percent are unsure. 45 percent of white voters and 54 percent of those aged above 45 believe that the police are not using enough force.

DHS Research survey results published Sept. 10, 2020

A majority of Oregon voters believe that “riot” is a more accurate description than “protest” of the recurring activity in Portland, with 55 percent for "riot" to 37 percent for "protest." Republicans, voters above 45 years of age, rural residents, and those who obtained a high school degree or less push for the "riot" label. Democrats, young voters under 30-years-old, and college degree holders choose to call the nightly occurrences "protests."

Two-thirds of Oregon voters disapprove of the ongoing protests in Portland and few believe that the civil unrest has been beneficial to black Portlanders, race relations, or police reform efforts.

By a margin of more than two to one, more Oregon voters disapprove of the protests in Portland than approve of them, with 66 percent opposing compared to 31 percent in favor. The Portland metro area paralleled the disapproval-to-approval ratio.

Voters ages 18 through 29 are the only group to approve of the protests. Voters of color are split in their evaluation with 49 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving.

Beyond general approval, voters were asked if the protests in Portland have been more helpful or harmful to black citizens in Portlanders, race relations, and police reform attempts.

DHS Research survey results published Sept. 10, 2020

On all accounts, most voters do not believe that the protests are constructive to the causes. Those endorsing the protests remained below the 30th percentile. 52 percent of voters ages 18 through 29 and 51 percent of voters of colour feel that the protests in Portland are helping black Portlanders. However, 39 percent of minority voters are less likely to believe that the protests are aiding race relations.

Overall, 46 percent of voters approve of the Portland Police Bureau’s response to the ongoing protests and 45 percent disapprove. Metro area voters mirrored their assessment of local law enforcement.

Responding to an open-ended question format, 30 percent of voters named the ongoing protests as the most important issue that state leaders should address. In fact, roughly twice as many mentioned the protests compared to COVID-19 at 16 percent or the economy at 13 percent. Racism and police reform were tagged significantly more among Gen Z and millennial voters aged 18 through 29.

The Sept. 3 through Sept. 8 online survey consisted of 502 Oregon voters and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. DHM Research noted that its methodology is "a sufficient sample size to assess Oregonians’ opinions generally and to review findings by multiple subgroups."

Respondents were contacted by a professional online panel. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by gender, age, area of the state, political party and education to reflect the profile of the November general election turnout.

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Mia Cathell
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