More Oregonians oppose the idea of losing parts of the state to Idaho than support it.
But the margin is narrow, according to a recent survey from the independent nonpartisan Oregon Values and Beliefs Center.
The center reported on the results of its survey this week.
It found 42% of Oregonians think rural counties should not be allowed to ditch Oregon for Idaho. However, 38% said they should be able to make that choice. Twenty percent of respondents said they weren’t sure.
The Greater Idaho proposal is to shift Oregon’s boundary so that the rural Eastern and Southwestern Oregon counties would be in Idaho.
Proponents say Greater Idaho would offer rural Oregonians a more like-minded, conservative state government and lower taxes. Idaho, the argument goes, would benefit from an influx of citizens and its own chunk of beachfront property.
Among the reasons cited by those who opposed Greater Idaho on the survey were pride in being an Oregonian and the value of diverse opinions.
“I am an OREGONIAN. Born and raised; I do not wish to be an Idahoan. OREGON PROUD,” commented one Douglas County woman between 45 and 54 years old who responded to the survey.
Another Douglas County woman, whose age was listed as between 55 and 64, also voiced opposition.
“I think most people are tired of the way Oregon is being run and are looking for a change, but moving boundaries isn’t the way. If you really want to live in Idaho, then move,” she said.
Douglas County residents in November voted 57% to 43% against asking their county commissioners and state legislators to work toward moving the Idaho border to include the county.
Move Oregon’s Border President Mike McCarter has said the group intends to try again in Douglas County. The group, which is the rural Oregon arm of the Greater Idaho movement, hopes to put the issue back on the ballot here by 2022 or earlier.
Overall, rural residents responded more favorably than urban residents, with 43% of rural residents saying voters should be able to approve their county’s move to Idaho, compared to 35% of urban residents.
Thirty-two percent of rural residents said a move was likely compared to 19% of urban residents. Forty percent of rural respondents thought the change would be positive, compared with 30% of urban respondents.
“I feel like those counties would get out from under the heel of the liberal policies that are choking the state of Oregon since the lawmakers have no idea what life is like in the rural areas, all they care about are their constituents in the major metropolitan areas such as Portland, Bend, and Salem,” said one supporter, a Wasco County man 30 to 44 years old.
Supporters and opponents agreed on one thing. Almost two-thirds of them, 64%, said it’s unlikely Greater Idaho will actually take place.
“We in these counties are rural, spread out, and low average incomes. The taxes required to maintain and improve the infrastructure required for such vast and lowly populated areas can’t be generated by the population in these counties alone. Where will Idaho get the additional resources? If from these counties, the tax rates will skyrocket,” said a Baker County woman between 65 and 74.
Older Oregonians seemed more certain than younger ones that moving Oregon’s border would be a bad idea.
More than half of Oregonians 75 and older said the move would be negative, while just 37% of Oregonians 30 to 44 said the move would be negative.
Oregonians of color were more open to the idea than their white neighbors, with 42% of Oregonians of color in favor compared to 38% of white Oregonians.
People with six-figure incomes were more likely to expect a negative outcome than those with lower incomes.
Among the concerns voiced by opponents were that state taxes and fees would increase and that eastern Oregon wouldn’t receive the state spending it does now, funded by the more affluent western metropolitan areas.
Move Oregon’s Border announced Monday that Harney County will vote on a Greater Idaho measure in November.
Voters in seven Oregon counties have voted in favor of the idea. Voters in Wallowa County rejected a ballot measure on the subject in May.
Move Oregon’s Border is also collecting signatures for proposed ballot measures in Curry, Josephine, Klamath, Morrow and Umatilla counties.
In some other counties, where ballot petitions have been rejected, the group is asking county commissioners to refer measures to voters.
None of the measures would actually determine whether the counties will join Idaho in the future. Ultimately, that decision would have to be made by the two states’ legislatures and by Congress.