Friday, April 29, 2005
Property rights, farm preservation top concerns
By MARK ENGLER Freelance Writer
Pollster takes statewide pulse
A statewide survey shows that among the
“fundamental values” Oregonians hold dear, the
most universally agreed upon sentiment is that
government should respect private property rights.
The study, conducted to flesh out opinions held by
Oregonians, also shows “protecting farmland for
farming” is a close second – in fact, in a
statistical dead-heat with property rights. They
are followed closely by protecting the environment
and preserving wildlife habitat.
The March telephone poll revealed that 67 percent
of the respondents “firmly believe protecting the
rights of the property owner is very important,”
according to the study commissioned by the Oregon
Business Association and the Institute of Portland
Metropolitan Studies at Portland State University.
“This belief extends to a clear preference for
protecting individual rights (60 percent) over a
responsibility to the community (37 percent) and
an affirmation that private rights (56 percent)
are more valued than the public good (38
percent),” states the report, written by Tom
Eiland of Conkling Fiskum & McCormick, a
Portland-based communications and research firm.
Protecting farmland is declared “very important”
by 64 percent of those polled, with 61 percent
adding environmental protection to the list as
The study is available on the Internet at
The polling data was made up of random interviews
conducted with 500 adult Oregon residents.
Sixty-four percent of those polled reported that
they have lived in Oregon more than 20 years.
Lynn Lundquist, president of the Oregon Business
Association, past president of the Oregon
Cattlemen’s Association and former speaker of the
state House of Representatives, said the poll
shows in objective terms that Oregonians continue
to support the basic thrust of Measure 37, which
was approved during the November election by 61
percent of the votes cast.
Contrary to the claims of some activists who
suggest otherwise, “people knew what they were
voting on,” said Lundquist, whose organization was
among those that advocated voting “no” on Measure
37 prior to the election.
“(Voters) may not have known the outcome, but they
have real feelings. And when you ask some of these
questions head-on, property rights win out,” said
Lundquist, a farmer who has filed a Measure 37
claim to build homes on property he owns in Crook
County. For more on this story, see
A government decision on his claim is still
pending, he said.
During the interviews, participants in the study
were “read the ballot title used for Measure 37
but not told the issue was considered in the
November 2004 general election,” according to the
report. Measure 37’s ballot title stated,
“Governments must pay owners, or forgo
enforcement, when certain land use restrictions
reduce property value.”
The responses tabulated by Eiland showed 54
percent of those polled still agree with the
ballot title, with 39 percent opposed and 7
“Support for the measure is strongest among
Deschutes County residents (71 percent),
Republicans (66 percent), residents in areas
transitioning from rural to suburban (65 percent),
Independents (63 percent), residents in the East
(62 percent) and Southwest (61 percent) counties.
The only groups to oppose the measure are
Democrats (51 percent) and residents in urban
areas (50 percent),” according to the study
“These results are similar to those found in
surveys conducted during the 2004 campaign and –
when undecideds are added to supporters – almost
identical to the actual election results,” the
The report suggests that although typically
“undecided voters take the least risky path and
vote to maintain the status quo by voting no,”
Measure 37’s ballot title was worded in such a way
that it did not “appear to advocate change but
suggests the action will maintain the rights of
landowners, a fundamental value among Oregonians.
“It appears that those undecided about the measure
ended up voting ‘yes’ at the election,” according
to the report.
The poll had a margin of error of 4.5 percent.
Some ambiguities also appeared in the poll.
For example, Oregonians were evenly divided when
asked whether land-use laws are “too strict” or
“about right.” Significantly fewer said laws are
“not strict enough.” Twenty-nine percent said they
believe landowners are “treated fairly” by local
governments, and 35 percent said they are not.
On the issue of “livability,” 37 percent said
their communities have improved, 29 percent said
“stayed the same,” and 30 percent said “gotten
The study found that, on the whole, while
“Oregonians value property and individual rights,”
they do not dislike land-use planning, and would
not instead prefer allowing development to occur
in the absence of government controls.
“By an overwhelming margin of 69 percent to 25
percent, Oregonians believe growth management has
made the state a more desirable place to live,”
the report states.
Also: “By nearly a three-to-one margin, Oregonians
value protecting land for future needs (70
percent) over using land now as needed for homes
and business (25 percent).”
The study also suggests tension exists over
whether state and local governments should
compensate property owners when rights are taken
away, or instead grant regulatory waivers.
Altering land-use policies and “updating Oregon’s
land-use system to accommodate population growth
and changing economic conditions” was supported by
79 percent of the respondents.
Tweaking regulations “to allow property owners to
build residential dwellings on farmland for
personal or family use” was considered
“appropriate” by 73 percent of those polled. Yet
55 percent agreed that compensating landowners for
reduced property was more desirable than waiving
Finally, the report shows that, overall, state
residents “are in a pessimistic mood,” with 47
percent indicating they believe “the state is on
the wrong track” and 38 percent that it “is headed
in the right direction.”
“Almost all demographic groups are pessimistic,
except those who have lived in Oregon 15 years or
less (50 percent right direction) and residents of
urban areas (47 percent),” the report states.