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Statewide polling shows region, political party play roles in how people react to the virus

PMG FILE PHOTO - A statewide poll, taken in December, shows mixed reactions to news about a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. A new poll shows that a majority of Oregonians are willing to roll up their sleeves and get the shots preventing the novel coronavirus, but enthusiasm varies by demographic — and by how much it costs.

Overall, the Portland polling firm DHM Research found that 61% of Oregonians statewide would take a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, as long as it was available for free. While the situation is still fluid, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that government-purchased doses of the vaccine will be available at no cost, though health care providers may charge a reimbursable administration fee.

Asked separately if they would get vaccinated as soon as possible, 38% of respondents reported being "very willing" and another 21% described themselves as "somewhat willing." Slightly more than a quarter, 27%, said they were not willing, and another 14% were unsure.

Here's how that data breaks down by political affiliation, location and race:

• Democrats (79%) outpace independents (56%) and Republicans (40%) in saying they are very or somewhat willing to take the vaccine.

• Portland metro residents (69%) lead Willamette Valley residents (58%) and those living in the rest of the state (44%) in being very or somewhat willing to take the vaccine.

• 60% of white respondents say they are very or somewhat willing to be vaccinated, compared with 56% of non-whites.

Southeast Portland resident Amelia Mary Dalton said she sees no reason to delay.

"I will be in line as soon as I am able, for my children and my husband as well," said Dalton, the news editor of an electrical engineering trade magazine. "I firmly believe that vaccines are an important part of our society, and I think it's dangerous to avoid vaccinating."

After 15 years spent working at home in peace, Dalton now shares her space with a kindergartener, sixth-grader and spouse — enough to drive anyone up the walls. "We have a circular house, so when we feel antsy we just run around a bunch of times," the 42-year-old said with a laugh.

The survey by DHM Research found mixed attitudes regarding social distancing requirements and stay-at-home protocols, though Oregonians are much less likely to partake in riskier indoor activities.

Less than half (46%) said they were very or somewhat willing to eat inside a restaurant, and a comparable number would invite friends over to dine inside (47%) or let relatives sleep over during the holidays (43%). Only 35% are prepared to travel on an airplane, while 76% were willing to meet with a friend out of doors. More than 80% did not travel outside of their own community over the past two weeks, which included Thanksgiving. Two-thirds (63%) were unwilling to spend more than 30 minutes indoors with unmasked non-household members.

"It's been tough not being able to eat at a nice restaurant. I always think that takeout food is way worse," said Scott Rokus of Beaverton.

Rokus, 54, shakes his head at the crowds of seasonal shoppers, some of whom could be asymptomatic carriers unaware of their own infection. "The insidious part of it is, most people don't think it will ever happen to them until it does," he said.

Perhaps the media is to blame? A third of state residents (33%) believe the media's coronavirus coverage has been exaggerated, though a larger group (44%) say it's been appropriate.

One survey respondent, who asked to be quoted anonymously, said the virus response should have rested on "personal accountability," not lockdowns.

"We're closing businesses, canceling events — we're destroying people's lives," said the Jefferson County resident. "I don't personally know anyone who has died from COVID."

DHM Research and the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted the online survey of 615 Oregonians in early December. Respondents were selected from professional panel groups to be representative of Oregon's population. The margin of error ranges from 2.4% to 4.2% per question.

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