Poll of Oregonians Regarding Greater Idaho

Oregon Values and Beliefs Center’s monthly poll (June 8-14) included three questions relating to the Greater Idaho idea. But rather than refer to the actual Greater Idaho proposal of including all of eastern and southern Oregon into Idaho, OVBC asked about the 7 counties that have already voted in favor of joining Idaho.

The poll showed that there is not a majority in favor or opposed to the concept, because about a fifth of respondents expressed no opinion.  Comments from the respondents often mentioned their unfamiliarity with the concept.  However, elections in May showed that when rural Oregon voters know that they will have to vote on the issue, and receive campaign literature to educate them on the benefits, and read op-eds about the negatives, they vote 62% in favor, which was the average of the 5 county election results.  Citizens for Greater Idaho expects to continue to win elections in rural Oregon in this way.

Mike McCarter, president of Citizens for Greater Idaho, said, “Journalists have been asserting that we don’t have much chance of convincing Oregon to let these counties go. But this poll seems to show that there is not a majority opposed to letting them go. As a new movement introducing a new idea, we feel that’s pretty good. As people learn about the benefits of letting these counties go, their representatives will become more persuadable.”

The pollsters prefaced their questions about Greater Idaho by stating “In May, voters in Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur, and Sherman counties approved separate ballot initiatives requiring county officials to study or promote joining Idaho. Two other counties — Union and Jefferson — passed similar measures in November.”

Mike McCarter said, “When a minority seeks to separate from a group, it’s natural for the majority to try to assert its dominance.  At the first sign of instability, people seek to shore up a sense of control.  As eastern and southern Oregon seek to join Idaho, the first impulse of northwestern Oregonians will be to assert Oregon’s legal right to retain its territory.  We are not questioning the legality of that, so we are not questioning the majority’s dominance. We are asking northwestern Oregonians to examine the benefits to northwestern Oregon of voluntarily letting this territory go.”

News coverage of the Greater Idaho movement hasn’t explained the benefits of the idea. In June, the Register-Guard published our first op-ed specifically explaining the benefits of the move to northwestern Oregon (the portion of Oregon that would not become a part of Idaho according to our proposal, stretching from Bend to Astoria). Our op-ed (www.registerguard.com/story/opinion/columns/2021/06/06/guest-view-let-southern-and-eastern-oregon-leave-greater-idaho/7510217002 ) explains why northwestern Oregon should want to cede these counties to Idaho. Letting these counties go would reduce the gridlock in the Oregon Legislature. And since eastern and southern Oregon have an average income only as high as Idaho’s, not Oregon’s, they are a significant drain on Oregon’s budget, since Oregon is funded by income taxes. But they would be a benefit to Idaho’s budget, because their economy would grow under Idaho’s low taxation and minimal regulation, as our Idaho op-ed explains: https://lmtribune.com/opinion/turnabout-greater-idaho-would-be-great-for-idahoans/article_7696f943-7da8-5bd6-8e7a-7336238beaf4.html .  Some respondents were concerned about the viability of eastern Oregon counties without Oregon’s subsidies, but their average incomes show that they are already as viable as Idaho is now.  The benefits of moving the border are explained on the homepage of www.greateridaho.org .

The first question, “Should Oregon counties be able to join Idaho if a majority of their voters agree?” could mean 2 different things:

  1. Should Oregon counties have a legal right to switch states without the consent of Oregon?
  2. Would it be morally right for Oregon to let counties switch states in this instance?

Even Citizens for Greater Idaho leadership doesn’t believe that a legal document gives counties a right to switch states without both states’ permission, so we are not surprised that some answered this question in the negative.  We know that historically, in the US, counties have only switched states with the consent of both state legislatures.  We are committed to obtaining the consent of Oregon and Idaho.  On the other hand, it could still be argued that if Oregon doesn’t consent, then the Declaration of Independence lays out moral principles for separating from a government – principles that are based on morality, not legality.

Morally speaking, Citizens for Greater Idaho believes it would be wrong for northwestern Oregonians to keep eastern and southern Oregon counties in the state against their will.

The last question, “Regardless of how likely you think it is, do you think it would be a positive or negative for these counties to join Idaho?” can also be understood in two different ways:

  1. Do you think joining Idaho would be positive or negative for these counties?
  2. Do think these counties joining Idaho would be a positive or a negative? (a positive overall, including for Oregon)

It’s unclear which question the respondents were answering, but some of both are evident from the comments the respondents made on the poll, according to anonymized comments graciously provided to Citizens for Greater Idaho by OVBC.  For example, one respondent in Josephine County wrote:

“Positive or negative for the counties that leave or for the rest of the state?  I don’t know if it would be positive or negative for the counties that leave, but it would be super positive for the rest of Oregon.  The rest of Oregon has all the income-producing areas.  We would be losing counties that don’t contribute much to the Oregon economy.  I say good riddance.” 

Evidently this respondent was unaware that Josephine County itself is included in the proposal for becoming a part of Idaho.

The comments of some Willamette Valley respondents indicated that they thought joining Idaho would be a negative for the counties that do so, and a positive for Oregon.  Mike McCarter said, “as citizens of eastern and southern Oregon, we ask that northwestern Oregonians make a decision based on what’s best for their part of the state, and leave it to us to make a decision based on what’s best for our part of the state. The election results from our part of the state indicate that we prefer to join Idaho.”

Because the question is ambiguous, it’s hard to say whether people are in favor or opposed, except for the responses from the people who live in those counties, which are only a fraction of the population of eastern Oregon.  The rest of those who live in eastern and southern Oregon might not want to see only those 7 counties join Idaho without their own home county.

OVBC divides its respondents into three geographical categories (Tri-county/rest of Willamette Valley/rest of state) that don’t align with the proposed location of the Oregon/Idaho border.  Citizens for Greater Idaho noted that 70% of the population of “rest of state” lives in territory that would become a part of Idaho according to their proposal.  Citizens for Greater Idaho created an estimate for both sides of their proposed location of the border by assuming that the 30% who are in OVBC’s “rest of state” but aren’t included in the Greater Idaho proposal polled the same as the respondents who live in “rest of Willamette Valley.”  The resulting estimate is that 42% of eastern and southern Oregon answered “positive”, and 39% answered “negative.”

Only 21% of the population of Oregon is included in Citizens for Greater Idaho’s proposal for joining Idaho, so their voice is drowned out in state polls and state elections.

An Idaho country music station website online poll showed Idahoans 60% in favor of annexing Oregon counties: https://kezj.com/poll-would-you-vote-to-allow-oregon-counties-to-join-idaho/

OVBC will ask more poll questions about Greater Idaho in the future. If you’d like to answer their monthly 15-minute polls, and get paid for it, click here and join their panel.

Citizens for Greater Idaho thanks OVBC for their work and offers these suggestions for future questions:

  • Do you think Oregon should give permission to allow eastern and southern Oregon to become parts of Idaho?
  • Currently, people in eastern and southern Oregon, on average, pay less state taxes per person than the Oregon average because they have a lower average income, and therefore lower tax payments. How much extra tax money per Oregonian would you say is so much that it’s not worth stopping eastern and southern Oregon from becoming a part of Idaho? In other words, how much are you willing to pay personally each year, to keep these counties as a part of Oregon? (less than $5 per month/ more than $5 per month but less than $40 per month / more than $40 per month)
  • Almost half of the Republicans in the Oregon Legislature represent portions of Oregon that might vote to become parts of Idaho. These Republicans have caused gridlock in the Oregon Legislature at times by fleeing the state to deny quorum or by forcing bills to be read aloud in their entirety.  Do you think reducing gridlock in the Oregon Legislature would be a good thing or a bad thing?
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