County on wrong track, says half of residents

Siege Schatza
IVN copy editor

A new poll commissioned by the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors and conducted by Nelson Research found that nearly half of Josephine County residents believe JoCo is headed on the wrong track.
According to a press release, “The Rogue Valley Association of Realtors is a trade association comprised of individuals who are engaged in various facets of the real estate business in Jackson and Josephine Counties and are chartered by the National Association of Realtors. RVAR strives to be the central source of real estate information and services within the community. We provide a central forum for the exchange of ideas and information, and we attempt to build a strong, responsible, and unified voice in local, state and national affairs.”
The poll, conducted by telephone Nov. 8-9, 2023 on 480 registered likely voters living in the county, had a margin of error of 4.5% and asked twelve questions related to the local economy and political leadership.
When asked, “Do you believe Josephine County is headed in the right direction, or do you believe the county is off on the wrong track?” 21.5% of respondents felt it’s on the right track, 48.3% the wrong track and 30.2% had no opinion or declined to respond.
Over half – 55% – of those polled disapprove of the Board of Josephine County Commissioners’ job performance; 33.3% said they strongly disapprove while 21.7% somewhat disapprove. Inversely, 23.1% view the commissioners in a positive light, with 5% strongly approving of their performance and 18.1% somewhat approving. 21.9% did not respond or had no opinion.
For individual commissioners, Dan DeYoung has a favorability rating of 20% (5.6% strongly, 14.4% somewhat), Herman Baertschiger’s was 17.3% (10% strongly, 7.3% somewhat) and John West’s was 16.9% (7.7% strongly, 9.2% somewhat).
DeYoung had an unfavorability rating of 22.9% (10.8% strongly, 12.1% somewhat), Baertschiger’s was 29.8% (21.7% strongly, 8.1% somewhat) and West’s was 26.7% (19% strongly, 7.7% somewhat)
For DeYoung, 17.7% of those polled had no opinion and 39.4% did not know who he was; 11.5% had no opinion of Baertschiger, while 41.5% had never heard of him; 17.9% had no opinion of West, while 38.5% had never heard of him.

In terms of political issues, only three topics were rated as the number one priority by poll participants: Homelessness (41.3%); law enforcement (17.1%); and public health/ mental health services (14.8%). Four other issues were presented to poll participants, none of which received more than 10% ranking it as a top priority: economic development & job creation (9.8%); keeping taxes low (8.3%); road maintenance/public infrastructure (2.9%); and emergency management (1.5%).

Asked what they’d rank as their second priority, responses were much more evenly split: Homelessness (22.5%); law enforcement (19.6%); public health/mental health services (17.9%); economic development & job creation (13.5%); keeping taxes low (13.3%); road maintenance/public health infrastructure (5.4%); and emergency management (4.4%).

The 480 poll participants were comprised of the following demographics:

-51.5% Female; 48.5% Male

-Age: 60+ – 52.1%; 35-59 – 39.4%; 18-34 – 8.5%

-62.7% voted in four of the four most recent elections; 14.8% voted in past three of four elections; 11.3% voted in two of four elections; 9.2% voted in one of four elections; and 2.1% were new voters.

-44.8% were registered Republicans; 25% Democrats; and 30.2% Independents or not registered to either major party.

-78.5% reside in Grants Pass; 21.5% outside Grants Pass.

Notable differences between the way different demographics answered questions included a five-point gap in how women view the path of the county compared to men. 24% of men feel the county is headed in the right direction while 19% of women do.

Curiously, a greater portion of Republicans surveyed feel the county is headed in the wrong direction than Democrats – 51.6% of Republicans compared to 44.2% of Democrats – despite all three commissioners being conservatives. This may be due to the perception of liberal state policies bleeding into local governance.

There was no significant difference between how Grants Pass voters and non-Grants Pass voters viewed the county’s trajectory: 21.8% of the Grants Pass residents feel the county is headed on the right path compared to 20.4% of non-Grants Pass voters.

Unsurprisingly, the county commissioners had a higher approval rating among conservatives than liberals, with 28.4% favorability with Republicans (5.6% strong approval, 22.8% somewhat approval) compared to 15.8% favorability with Democrats (3.3% strongly, 12.5% somewhat).

65% of Democrats disapprove of the commissioners’ job performance (44.2% strongly, 20.8% somewhat) while 53% of Republicans disapprove (27.9% strongly; 25.1% somewhat.

Among Republicans, all three individual commissioners received roughly the same favorability rating: DeYoung – 24.2% (7% strongly, 17.2% somewhat); Baertschiger – 27% (17.7% strongly, 9.3% somewhat); West – 27.4% (13% strongly, 14.4% somewhat)

Democrats had a particularly dismal view of one commissioner in particular – Baertschiger received a meager 1.6% favorability rating (0.8% strongly, 0.8% somewhat), perhaps due to his years as minority leader of the Oregon Senate. Unshockingly Baertschiger’s peers were also unpopular among Democrats, with DeYoung scoring 14.2% (5% strongly, 9.2% somewhat) and West 5% (1.7% strongly, 3.3% somewhat).

DeYoung scored a 30% unfavorability with Democrats (13.3% strongly, 16.7% somewhat) and an 18.6% unfavorability rating with Republicans (8.4% strongly, 10.2% somewhat); Baertschiger was negatively viewed by 50% of Democrats (40% strongly, 10% somewhat) compared to 19.5% of Republicans (10.2% strongly, 9.3% somewhat); and West had an unfavorability of 43.3% with Democrats (33.3% strongly, 10% somewhat) and 14% with Republicans (8.4% strongly, 5.6% somewhat).

In terms of name recognition, 35.8% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans had never heard of Dan DeYoung; 37.5% of Democrats and 42.3% of Republicans had never heard of Herman Baertschiger; and 38.3% of Democrats and 38.6% of Republicans had never heard of John West.

RVAR plans to commission more surveys later this year, stating in their press release: “As a trade association with a vested interest in our local economy, we will continue to conduct polling and community surveys over the next year to further gather insight as to the thoughts and feelings of the communities and share them with the public in a non-partisan manner. Our hope and intent is to provide valuable information, in an unbiased manner to the communities in which we serve and live, that individuals may find useful during the upcoming election cycle when deciding what type of leaders they want making crucial decisions that may impact the economy, the local business climate and their daily lives.”