Inflation is far and away Oregonians’ top concern as the general election approaches, new polling finds, as voters remain acutely concerned about their own finances.
A quarter of likely Oregon voters in a new poll by DHM Research listed cost of living as the biggest consideration in their choice for governor. That ranked far above other hot-button issues, among them homelessness (13%), crime (11%), abortion and climate change (10% apiece).
Inflation is a thorny issue for Oregon’s three leading gubernatorial candidates because the state’s tools for addressing rising prices are limited.
The main economic forces driving inflation — snarled global supply chains, the national labor shortage, Russia’s war in Ukraine, COVID-19 shutdowns in China – are beyond what Oregon’s elected leaders can control.
“For the most part, inflation is bigger than Oregon. It’s very difficult for state and local policymakers to make a dent,” Oregon state economist Mark McMullen noted earlier this year in a talk with state lawmakers.
Try telling that to voters, though.
Nearly 60% say they’re worried, or very worried, about their own financial situation. That’s near the highest level since the pandemic hit early in 2020 despite today’s rising wages and unemployment near historic lows.
Economists sometimes explain it this way: Even high unemployment rarely affects more than 1 in 10 workers. But inflation affects everyone, so it is more broadly felt.
Oregon’s gubernatorial candidates are taking notice.
Republican Christine Drazan highlights Oregon’s rising cost of living among her top economic issues and proposes tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks to promote economic growth and keep more money in voters’ hands.
Independent candidate Betsy Johnson proposes eliminating regulations and fees to cut the cost of construction and increase the housing supply.
Democrat Tina Kotek notes that, as speaker of the House, she helped pass laws that blocked restrictive zoning, which enabled denser home construction. The Legislature also passed rules that limit rent increases during her term.
DHM is one of Oregon’s most prominent pollsters, working with news organizations, political candidates and public agencies to gauge public opinion. The latest poll results, collected in early August, are from a regular DHM survey that asks about the state’s political and economic climate.
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