A survey of Washington and Oregon respondents drew press attention this week by allegedly confirming the cold shoulder Pacific Northwest residents reputedly give to newcomers. The actual poll results aren’t quite that conclusive or simple.
The 2019 PEMCO Insurance survey question that produced attention-grabbing headlines asked, “Right now in your life, how important is it to you to make new friends?” Out of 1,235 responses, 40 percent said making new friends was “not important” or “not at all important.” What the headlines didn’t reflect was that 59 percent of respondents said making new friends was “extremely important,” “very important” or “somewhat important.”
Survey results were broken down between Washington (635) and Oregon (600) respondents. Washingtonians were slightly more open to making friends than the overall findings (62%-38%), while Oregonians were less friend-seeking (57%-42%). The 1 percent who didn’t know was from Oregon.
The Seattle Times story describing the survey results carried this headline: “Seattle Freeze: Forget making friends – half of Washington residents don’t even want to talk to you.” That seems quite a leap from the actual survey findings.
When you segment the findings by gender, age and family status, you get a more nuanced picture. Male respondents expressed more importance to making friends than female respondents. So did younger adults over older adults and respondents with children over respondents with no children. The most striking statistic is that Washingtonians appear more open to making friends than Oregonians.
Another question in the survey was, “Even if it’s not important to you right now, how easy or difficult do you think it is to make friends in the city where you live.” Again, the findings weren’t all that headline-grabbing – 36 percent said making friends is “very easy” or “somewhat easy” compared to 37 percent who said it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult.” Twenty-five percent said it was neither easy nor difficult.
There wasn’t much statistically different in the answers of Washington and Oregon respondents. Like the previous question, younger adults and adults with children found making friends easier than older adults and adults without children. Males again said it was easier to make friends than females.
The reputation of Pacific Northwest residents as cold and aloof may be true, but these poll results don’t really confirm that. They certainly don’t back up the suggestion that people in our region don’t want to talk to non-friends or newcomers.
The survey results do substantiate that, for many people, making friends isn’t a high priority and that, for some, entering new friendships isn’t easy. We didn’t really need a headline to tell us that.
[CFM Research is committed to integrity and objectivity in framing questions, conducting surveys with representative samples and analyzing findings fairly and accurately.]