The novel coronavirus has upended nearly every facet of modern life over the past year — but will those changes stick?
Many Oregonians predict that online shopping and working from home are here to stay; virtual schooling and high unemployment, on the other hand, are expected to linger temporarily. And the permanence of other virus-spurred alterations in society, such as the rise of telemedicine, leave Oregon divided.
That's all according to a new polling by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center.
OVBC, in partnership with DHM Research, conducted the survey of 900 Oregon residents — selected to be demographically representative of the state — in late February and early March. The margin of error ranges from 2% to 3.3% per question.
Here's how the pollsters drilled down into the details:
Some 60% of Oregonians believe elevated levels of online shopping will become permanent. Suburbanites (67%) and liberals (68%) are more likely to foresee an enduring shift to purchasing goods by click, compared with conservatives (52%) and city dwellers (53%). A quarter of residents say the change will be temporary and only 5% believe it will not happen at all, according to OVBC.
Klaus Heyne of Corbett wouldn't buy a gift online. But he's happy to skip the line for everyday items.
"I no longer buy my laundry detergent or dishwashing fluid in Target," he said. "I buy it online, it's here in two days and I didn't pay a penny for shipping."
Working from home
Half of state residents think working from home will persist indefinitely, compared to 37% who believe it's merely a passing phase. The remainder (11%) were unsure or rejected the change (3%). Portland area denizens (57%) far outpaced those living outside the metro or Willamette Valley area (37%) in seeing the change as permanent.
When Forest Grove fitness instructor Rachel Sandage polled her students about returning to in-person workouts, about half of the retirees were happy to keep working out virtually.
"It's convenient for them to roll out of bed and do it online," Sandage said. "I have students joining my classes from Boston, Toronto and Europe. I don't think it's ever going to go back to 100% in person."
A majority (58%) of Oregonians expect remote learning for K-12 students to continue for a few years, but only on a temporary basis, compared with 12% who think it will be permanent and 22% who expect online classes to shut down soon. Republicans (30%) are more likely to predict an end to e-learning than Democrats (20%) and Independents (18%).
Sandage said the mostly important skills for younger pupils include "how to get along with people, how to share — and you can't learn that online." But the 60-year-old said it might be fine for digital-minded high school and college students.
Heyne, 69, disagreed, saying his son had put off college for a year rather than spending big bucks for a virtual institution.
"Higher education thrives on interpersonal exchanges," he said.
Oregonians are bullish when it comes to finding a job. Most (61%) say high unemployment rates will be temporary, compared with 23% who expect it on a permanent basis. Homeowners (65%) are more likely than renters (56%) in seeing lasting unemployment as transitory.
RobinAnna Davis said the genie of automation and algorithms can't be stuffed back in the bottle, but that doesn't mean the economy will collapse.
"Progress happens," said the resident of rural Clackamas County. "It happened to the blacksmiths when cars came along. People evolved."
The rise of telemedicine left some Oregonians heading in different directions. The poll showed 43% believe virtual doctor's visits will become permanent for non-urgent health care visits — while 35% said it's only a ephemeral part of life. OVBC reports that divide was "the closest split" among survey respondents. Oregon seniors (45%) were more likely than young adults (30%) to think the COVID-prompted change will be permanent.
"If it's not something I need to go in for, why would I?" Sandage asked.
"The virtual visits, it just makes sense," said Davis, 58.
Heyne suspects insurance companies prefer telemedicine because it's easier on their bottom line, saying he trusts the long-established relationship he has with his general practitioner.
"Healing is a human enterprise," he said. "If you need telemedicine, you don't need a doctor."
More than a penny for your thoughts
The Oregon Values and Beliefs Centers is committed to the highest level of public opinion research. To obtain that, the non-profit is building the largest online research panel of Oregonians in history to ensure that all voices are represented in discussions of public policy in a valid and statistically reliable way.
Selected panelists earn points for their participation, which can be redeemed for cash or donated to a charity. To learn more, click here.
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