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'Voters are in a really sour mood': Poll finds Portlanders frustrated by homelessness, crime, city leadership

88% of respondents said quality of life is getting worse in Portland, with nearly 70% of people citing homelessness and crime as the city’s biggest problems.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A new poll shows that Portland area voters are fed up with homelessness, crime and the city’s political leaders. The annual poll, conducted by DHM Research for the Portland Business Alliance, asked 500 voters in the greater Portland area their feelings on a number of issues. Here’s a look at some of the main results:

  • 88% said quality of life is getting worse
  • 45% said homelessness is the city’s biggest problem, up from 24% in 2017
  • 24% said crime is Portland’s biggest problem, up from 1% in 2020

Andrew Hoan, CEO of Portland Business Alliance, said the results surprised him.

"This is a historic response in terms of alignment of voters," Hoan said, adding that voters are focused like never before on what’s wrong and feel current political leaders are not effective at bringing change.

"It shouldn’t be lost that homelessness now is so ascendant and that crime has risen to the top of the issues," Hoan said. "That should not be taken for granted by anyone in public office, by anyone running for public office, or those managing our public resources."

RELATED: New poll quantifies damage 2020 did to downtown Portland's image, among Metro-area residents

Two Portland commissioners are up for re-election this spring. Only 18% of respondents said they'd vote for Jo Ann Hardesty, with 54% saying they’d vote for someone else and 28% saying they were unsure. Even fewer respondents, 10%, said they’d vote for Dan Ryan again, with 34% saying they’d vote for someone else and 56% saying they’re not sure.

Jo Ann Hardesty

  • 18% — Will vote to re-elect
  • 54% — Will vote for someone else
  • 28% — Not sure

Dan Ryan

  • 10% — Will vote to re-elect
  • 34% — Will vote for someone else
  • 56% — Not sure

Both Hardesty and Ryan have challengers and this poll may encourage more to run. Pollster John Horvick said people in Portland are fed up.

"Those are really telling numbers," he said. "They fit with the larger piece of data, which is just voters are in a really sour mood in Portland and the region. We just see that across the questions. We ask everything, from is the community heading in the right direction, to what are the economic opportunities for yourself and your family. People are in a bad mood."

According to the poll, people in Portland do feel better about two topics: COVID-19 and the economy. In December 2020, 26% of respondents said COVID was a big problem; that number is now down to 7%. And in 2020, 22% said the economy was a problem; it’s down to 3% now.

Respondents had strong opinions about public safety, saying they want more money for body cameras for police officers and to hire new officers and prosecutors. Respondents also said they want more funding for community groups that help stop crime and more money for police in general.

Public safety

(Agree strongly or somewhat agree)

  • 90% — City should allocate more money to fund and require body cameras
  • 83% — City should allocate more money to train new officers
  • 79% — City should allocate more money to hire more prosecutors
  • 72% — City should allocate more money for community groups
  • 58% — City should allocate more money for police in general

The poll also asked what people thought of the Portland City Council, with 81% saying the city council is somewhat or very ineffective. With so many people upset with Portland's city commissioners, it's not a surprise that there was broad support for changing city government, with 56% saying they strongly or somewhat support changing Portland’s form of government.

RELATED: Critics say Portland city government is broken. A commission is crafting proposals to reshape city council

Portland has an antiquated form of city government, with a mayor and four city commissioners, elected by the entire city, who are placed in charge of huge city departments. Most cities have a professional manager who runs the city's day-to-day operations and then several elected politicians who represent specific areas and work out big-picture items.

A city charter review commission, comprised of a group of 20 community leaders, is looking at how Portland can change its city charter to end the commission style of government and shift to a government where people represent districts. The Portland Business Journal said the commission hopes to have something ready for voters to decide on by this November.

VIDEO: Should Portland change its form of government?

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