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Portland not as quirky as its portrayed

Poll shows that residents care most about the economy
by: Courtesy of IFC Based on a recent Hibbitts poll, the weird image of Portland portrayed in Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's satirical IFC TV series "Portlandia" (above) is not completely accurate.

Portland isn't exactly the 'Portlandia' of TV fame, and its image as a hip slacker paradise is not completely accurate, says local pollster Tim Hibbitts.

'In relation to the whole 'Portlandia' and keeping-Portland-weird thing, Portlanders have values that set them apart from the rest of the country somewhat, but the weirdness and quirkiness factor is overrated and many people in the area are not that enamored it has been attached to them,' Hibbitts told the Portland Business Alliance at its Wednesday breakfast meeting.

Hibbitts' opinion is based on the results of a new DHM Research survey co-sponsored by Portland General Electric to measure which issues matter most to people in the metropolitan area.

PGE President Jim Piro told the crowd the laid-back image of Portland portrayed in the satirical IFC TV series (starring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen) does not match his own experience. In the show, actors portray a variety of tattooed unemployed and underemployed artists who spend much of their time in coffee shops or bicycling around town. The theme song describes Portland as a city 'where young people come to retire.'

'We wanted to get some sense of the voters' views on the economy,' said Piro, who was recently appointed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber to head a committee to recommend ways the state can move from a two-year budget to one that envisions a 10-year horizon.

Among other things, the survey found most voters are very concerned about the poor shape of the economy and want government to partner with businesses to create good-paying jobs.

'The economy is far and away the top issue. The anxiety level over the economy is the highest I have seen in more than 30 years in the field (of polling),' Hibbitts said.

Asked to pick those factors that contribute to a good quality of life, 48 percent chose 'good wage jobs.' Only 11 percent picked 'having a national image as quirky, a little weird.'

A previous PBA report found that Portland-area wages are 10 percent below the national average. The new poll shows residents are not willing to trade income for a higher quality of life. It found that 66 percent of the respondents believe the low income level hurts families and reduces funding for necessary government services such as schools. Only 26 percent said having a high quality of life is a fair trade off for lower incomes.

'People believe they can have both - a good job and a good quality of life,' Hibbitts said.

Core issues

The PBA is the regional Chamber of Commerce. It plans to use the poll's findings to lobby lawmakers about the need to work with businesses to improve the economy, said association President and Chief Executive Officer Sandra McDonough.

The survey of 600 voters was conducted between Feb. 4 and 7. That sample included 250 voters in Portland, 250 suburban voters and 100 voters in Marion County, where PGE serves some customers.

Hibbitts said he was a little surprised the results were so alike in all of the areas, despite Portland's reputation for being more liberal than the suburbs and rest of the state.

'On the core issues of wanting good jobs, improving the economy and wanting government and business to work together on these issues, I'm surprised by the sameness of the results,' Hibbitts said.

The survey also showed that most residents support the proposed Columbia River Crossing project. According to the results, 67 percent favor the replacement Interstate 5 bridge and freeway improvement project, compared with 25 percent who oppose it and 8 percent who don't know.