Alex Baumhardt

(Oregon Capital Chronicle) Most Oregonians would prioritize protecting the environment to spur economic growth, rather than rolling back environmental regulations on companies, according to a new survey.

Most also said they would vote for candidates in the November general election who are committed to reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

About 1,500 adults participated between Sept. 13 to 21 in an online questionnaire from the nonpartisan Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, based in Portland. The questions were centered on respondents’ attitudes about climate change and the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Most said state government should not relax environmental regulations to make it easier for companies to operate in Oregon. About 60% said maintaining a healthy environment was more important for attracting people and businesses to the state.

That represented a slight decline from last year, when more than 75% of Oregonians responding to a similar question said protecting the environment should be prioritized.

Among party lines there were large differences.

About half of Republicans thought protecting the environment should be prioritized compared with more than three-quarters of Democrats.

Climate change has not been a central issue among candidates in either party running for election Nov. 8 despite an increase in extreme weather events. On Thursday, a United Nations environmental program published a report warning that if emissions aren’t dramatically reduced, the world will face climate disaster.

About half of survey respondents said they want more regulations on greenhouse gas emitters in Oregon. People without school-aged children were more likely to want stricter environmental regulations than people with school-aged children.

Just 20% of survey respondents said Oregon’s environmental regulations should be less strict than they are currently. Oregon has some of the most ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and strictest environmental regulations in the country.

When it comes to the role climate change will play in voter decisions in the November general election, urban and rural voters were split.

Urban Oregonians were more likely to favor environmental conservation, significant government action to combat climate change, stricter regulations on greenhouse gas emitters and to vote for political candidates who made reducing emissions a priority.

Rural Oregonians were almost twice as likely to say they would vote for a candidate who gives no or low priority to reducing emissions.

Those without kids were slightly more likely to say they would vote for candidates who make reducing emissions a high priority than people with kids. Homeowners were twice as likely as renters to say they would vote for a candidate who gives high priority to reducing emissions.

Another recent survey from the Values and Beliefs Center found that among issues most important to Oregon voters, climate change was low on the list. Just 5% of those surveyed mentioned it was an important issue. Homelessness topped the list, followed by housing affordability, crime and safety, drug abuse and addiction and the cost of living and inflation.