Monday, October 26, 2020
Oct. 26, 2020

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Oregon voters disapprove of Portland protests, feel police aren’t using enough force, poll finds

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A majority of Oregon voters disapprove of the ongoing nightly protests in Portland and believe officers haven’t used enough force in their response, according to a poll released Thursday.

Those findings, released by Portland-based DHM Research, came hours after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced he was ordering Portland police officers to stop using a particularly toxic form of tear gas after lawsuits over its deployment, its repeated use on people not engaged in criminal conduct and some not involved in the protests at all, and widespread demands from the community and elected officials to end the practice.

The poll of 502 likely voters was conducted from last Thursday to Tuesday. Nearly half of the participants said they lived in either Multnomah, Clackamas or Washington counties. Another quarter of them live elsewhere in the Willamette Valley and the rest are from other parts of the state. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The majority, nearly one-third of respondents, said in response to an open-ended question that the protests in Portland were the most important issue they wanted state leaders to address — more than the coronavirus, the economy, homelessness, racism, policing, health care and other topics. About twice as many mentioned protests as COVID-19 (16%) or the economy (13%).

According to the survey, 66% of participants said they didn’t approve of the Portland protests and most believed they’ve been harmful to Black Portlanders, race relations and police reform efforts. Just 28% believe they are helpful to Black Portlanders and slightly less deemed them beneficial on the other fronts.

More than half of the surveyed voters said they believed the protests were mostly violent, 42% felt Portland police weren’t using enough force “when dealing with protesters” and the majority felt the word “riot” rather than “protest” best encapsulated how they would describe the demonstrations.

The poll found that about 60% of Oregon voters disapprove of how Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has responded to protests. But it found similar numbers disapprove of the response to protests by President Donald Trump and by Gov. Kate Brown – who have taken diametrically opposed stands on the role of federal officers, the merits of dialing back police’s role in public safety and the role of Trump supporters and white supremacists in spurring violence.

But Wheeler at 30% received the lowest approval percentage of the three and Trump, at 39%, the highest.

Most Oregon voters have never directly observed the Portland protests they were surveyed about. Rather, they have learned about them from mediums such as TV, newspapers, social media. DHM conducted its statewide survey on three broad topics including the protests. The other two directly affect the entire state and nation: coronavirus and the presidential election.

The firm did not survey a large enough sample of voters who live inside the Portland city limits to present findings about how Portland voters view their mayor and police force amid the nightly protests against police violence and racial injustice.

But DHM executive John Horvick, the lead author on the study findings, noted on Twitter Thursday that the poll’s findings about how favorably voters in the three-county Portland area view Portland police handling of protests lines up very closely with findings of a poll of city of Portland voters by a California polling firm whose results The Oregonian/OregonLive revealed earlier this week.

While the largest segment of white voters in DHM’s statewide poll — 45% — said they felt not enough force was being used by Portland police, rather than too much or about the right amount, 60% of voters of color felt officers were using too much force.

Nearly 90% of those polled were white, more than 60% of them age 45 and over, nearly 40% Democrats and more than half with a 2- or 4-year degrees.

The poll also significant differences in voters’ views by age. Two-thirds of those ages 18 to 29 told pollsters the police have used too much force at protests while 54% of those ages 45 and up said police have not used enough.

Voters ages 18 to 29 were the only group to approve of the protests. They also named racism and police reform as the top issue they’d like leaders to address significantly more often (17% and 14% respectively) than those in older age ranges.

Most of the Oregon voters surveyed said they felt the state was heading the wrong direction (56%) and so was the country (71%).

This survey comes after a separate survey of 435 Portland voters published Tuesday showed Wheeler drew an unfavorable rating of 63%, around three-quarters of respondents said they supported the Black Lives Matter movement and close to 70% said they supported the Portland protests. The findings of that poll indicated most likely voters in Portland view Portland police’s use of force as a serious concern.

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