Adam Davis

Adam Davis

As health officials distribute a long-awaited vaccine for COVID-19 in Oregon, a statewide survey shows that Oregonians’ opinions on the vaccine split on familiar geographic and political fault lines. However, the same research shows something that may be less expected: an education divide.

According to a recently completed survey conducted by DHM Research and the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, a strong majority of Oregonians (59%) said they would be willing to take a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available.

Only 38%, however, said they would be very willing. Willingness to take the shot is much higher in the tri-county area (69%) than the Willamette Valley (58%) and the rest of the state (44%). And Democrats are twice as willing to take the vaccine than Republicans (79% vs. 40%). The margin of error in this poll is 2.4-4.2%.

There is a lot of hand-wringing in Oregon about the urban-rural and blue-red (Democrat-Republican) divides. Our research shows that for public policy issues like taking the COVID-19 vaccine perhaps we should focus on something else: the education levels of Oregonians.

Across the state, college graduates are much more willing to take the vaccine (75%) than their less-educated counterparts, as are highest income households (74%). Both these divides are greater than the urban-rural divide for the question.

This education divide is seen in the results to other COVID-19 questions in the survey. There were significant differences by education level for the willingness to have friends come over to your home for a dinner indoors and having relatives stay at your home for multiple days during the season. For both, Oregonians with less education are more willing to take the risk.

Oregonians with less education also are less likely to know anybody who was infected with, hospitalized for or died due to COVID-19. And they are more likely to feel the news coverage about coronavirus has been generally exaggerated.

COVID-19 isn’t the only issue for which we see an education divide In Oregon. In the October DHM Research/OVBC survey we asked Oregonians about climate change.

Roughly two-thirds of Oregonians feel that global climate change will harm them personally at some point in their lifetime. No surprise, there’s an urban-rural divide: Tri-county 72%, Willamette Valley 62%, and rest-of-state 53%. And there’s a whopping political divide: Democrats 88% vs. Republicans 26%.

As for education, college graduates are more likely than their counterparts to feel climate change will harm them personally at rates similar to the urban-rural divide. The same pattern holds when Oregonians of various education levels are asked about their willingness to pay for efforts to combat climate change.

Much has been said, much is being said and much will be said about the urban-rural and political divides in Oregon, but there’s not much we can be done about them. People live where they live and political party identification is firm in these days of media-driven tribalism.

The surveys and elaborative focus group research, however, do point to a divide we may be able to bridge. It’s called public education.

This education is more than reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s about informing Oregonians about the value of vaccinations, the effects of climate change and the contribution public services make to the livability and quality of life we have in our communities. It touches on civics, the basic sciences, geography, history and personal finance.

Over the next 12 months, OVBC — working with EO Media, Pamplin Media and other news outlets — hopes to play a role in that educational effort. Our goals are to make the voices of all Oregonians heard through truly independent and non-partisan research and make the findings understandable and easily available to inform Oregonians working to build stronger communities across the state. OVBC and its partners want to shine a light on what unites us and to better understand what divides us.

Adam Davis is co-founder of DHM Research, an independent, nonpartisan firm, and the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center. He has been conducting opinion research in Oregon for more than 40 years.

(1) comment


I asked the gal that cuts my hair “How many first world countries provide at least basic healthcare for their citizens?” She replied “I don’t know... one?” She did not believe me when I said all of them do, except the USA.

I asked her how many people in those other countries went bankrupt and/or lost their homes due to healthcare bills? She said “I don’t know”. I said none, but 66% if USA bankruptcies, or 530,000 annually are due to healthcare costs.

It may be that level of education is the fundamental factor in these opinions, but I believe it’s the level and source of information. You don’t have to be a college graduate to read and critically evaluate information. You need to be curious and willing to be informed (and not by FOX Infotainment).

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