Opinion survey gauges public views about growth
Metro today released the results of a public opinion survey designed to develop valid and statistically reliable information regarding the attitudes of residents about the quality of life in the region and growth management principles. Six hundred voters in the Metro region were randomly selected and interviewed on the phone between July 31 and Aug. 3, 2009. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 4 percent.
Summary of findings prepared by Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall, Inc.
Residents are optimistic about the direction of the region, and enjoy the quality of life they have. A majority of voters (58 percent) think things in the region are headed in the right direction. As found in other surveys for Metro about the quality of life in the region, residents value the environment, landscape and the types of activities and lifestyles these things provide. They also value the small community feel, access to a variety of activities and type of people living in the region.
There is widespread support for the region's urban growth boundary, smart growth and protecting the region's farmland, natural areas and standing forests. The environment is one of the top things that contributes to residents' quality of life in the region, and many communicated they do not want population growth and new development to jeopardize it. Residents strongly support development within the current urban growth boundary, including along transportation corridors, building on vacant lots, redeveloping old buildings and creating higher density neighborhoods (if they have parks, natural areas and access to convenient shopping and public transit) to preserve farm and forestland.
Residents across the three counties feel similarly about the quality of life they have in the region. They like the same things (e.g., outdoor recreation opportunities, environmental quality, weather and people/sense of community). They also have similar concerns (e.g., traffic congestion, public safety, government, employment).
While there are differences in priorities and the acceptability of planning principles across age, education, and income groups, the starkest demographic differences are by residency type and county. Residents in Multnomah and Washington counties showed stronger support for the urban growth boundary, higher density growth and alternative modes of transportation than those in Clackamas County. Even so, a majority of Clackamas County residents supported new development to accommodate population growth coming through the redevelopment of land within the current urban growth boundary, reusing and revitalizing old buildings and vacant lots in already developed areas resulting in more people and increased activity in those areas, and development of public transit biking and walking as an alternative to the automobile.
Importantly, during the past decade Washington County residents, whose views were once more uniform with those living in Clackamas County, have identified closer to or in many cases almost equally with their counterparts in Multnomah County. Residents with higher levels of education and income levels also showed the most support for the urban growth boundary and the planning principles tested. While those ages 18 to 34 had strong support for high density development and public transit infrastructure, they were less likely to have strong opinions about whether or not the urban growth boundary is expanded.
Resident support for the urban growth boundary and higher density development is dependent on certain things:
- understanding the potential for redevelopment of vacant lots within the urban growth boundary and revitalizing old buildings, and being assured that this kind of development will precede or be done concurrently with the development of any undeveloped land within the boundary
- being assured that new development of any kind is carefully designed, accompanied with parks, natural spaces and easy access to public transit, and is walkable
- knowing the location of any new development relative to nearby neighborhoods and the level of increase in population density and activity level; otherwise, residents will assume the worst
- understanding that higher density development is a way to conserve farm and forest land and natural spaces, and is an alternative to urban sprawl.