Most Oregonians Think Portland Protests Are Violent and Counterproductive

What’s more surprising is that support isn’t much greater in the Portland metro area, where 61% of voters disapprove.

A banjo player by the remnants of the mattress fire outside of North Precinct on Sept. 6. (Alex Wittwer)

A survey released today shows the majority of Oregonians believe Portland protests are mostly violent, and that police are not using too much force to subdue them.

The survey, released by Portland-based polling firm DHM Research, shows just 29% of likely Oregon voters think police are responding with too much force to nightly protests against police, which have now lasted more than 100 days. Another 42% think police aren't using enough force, and 18% believe police are using the right amount.

Across Oregon, 66% of voters disapprove of the protests. What's more surprising is that support isn't much greater in the Portland metro area, where 61% of voters disapprove.

The results show deep divisions between people of different races and ages—young people and people of color support the protests in far greater numbers, and are more likely to see them as helping Black people. But the qualms about protests are hardly limited to conservatives: Most of the people of color polled say the protests are not improving race relations.

To be sure, Portland protesters aren't trying to persuade anyone; their goal is to confront and disrupt a system they believe is fundamentally unjust. But the survey results suggest that their tactics—which have included setting mattresses and dumpsters on fire outside police precincts—have alienated most of the state's citizens.

For weeks, the spectacle of property destruction and violent clashes at protests has received tremendous media attention. As WW noted in a cover story this week, videos of the most alarming violence regularly go viral online, and seem to intensify outrage and polarization.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 3 to 8. In it, Oregon voters said the protests were the single issue they most want elected leaders to address. Nearly double the share of respondents—30%—picked protests over the COVID-19 pandemic, which 16% considered the most urgent issue.

Most Oregonians disapprove of the way all three major elected officials—President Donald Trump, Gov. Kate Brown and Mayor Ted Wheeler—are handling protests. The state is evenly divided about whether it supports how Portland police officers have responded: 46% say they approve of police response, and 45% percent disapprove.

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