The latest SoonerPoll reveals most Oklahomans now oppose a ballot initiative which had wide support when it was last polled in July. State Question 744, which would require the Oklahoma State Legislature to fund public education to at least the per-pupil average of neighboring states, was supported by 65 percent of Oklahomans in July, a number which has fallen to just 27.6 percent while 58 percent opposed when polling concluded Friday.
In early stages of the election cycle SQ 744 received wide bipartisan support, with 69.3 percent of Democrats and 59.7 percent of Republicans in favor of the measure in July.
The measure has since been scrutinized by high profile Republican and Democratic leaders alike, who argue that there are no guarantees that money will be spent in the classroom and no oversight or accountability on how the money will be spent.
The current Governor Brad Henry and both 2010 Gubernatorial Candidates have all taken a strong stance against SQ 744. Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Fallin told the Daily Oklahoman that “if State Question 744 passes it will be devastating for Oklahoma.”
Although Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Jari Askins has made education one of the premier issues on the campaign trail, she has come out against the education measure. Speaking at Oklahoma City University as part of the Oklahoma Academy Forums, Askins said “If our friends in education could have had a crystal ball at the time that they were circulating the petitions and getting signatures for this hope initiative, they would have picked a better economic time.”
Askins is not the only Oklahoman concerned with where the money for SQ 744 will come from. The One Oklahoma Coalition, a statewide association of individuals and organizations working defeat SQ 744, has been run a series of ads in which the issue of how to pay for the measure takes center stage.
Poll results indicate that the funding concerns raised by high profile party leaders and groups like One Oklahoma Coalition have taken their toll on SQ 744 support. Both Republicans and Democrats favored the measure in July, but the most recent poll indicates that only 20.2 percent of Republicans and 32.9 percent of Democrats are in still in favor of the measure.
The poll also found a 43.8 percent drop among liberal supporters to only 31.8 percent in favor and a 40.9 percent drop among conservative supporters to only 17.7 percent in favor.
Despite the criticism and fall in support, those in favor of SQ 744 still maintain that Oklahoma can afford 744 if wasteful special interest spending is addressed and eradicated.
Walton Robinson, communications director of the Yes on 744 Campaign, said that the legislature gave away over $2 billion last year in special interest tax breaks for risky investments that could have been invested in education. “We anticipated that anti-public education politicians and special interest groups would use deceptive scare tactics to mislead voters,” Robinson said. “When they hear our message about helping Oklahoma’s kids and schools they will be able to make an informed decision about SQ744.”
Howard Hall, a respondent from Shawnee, said that he opposes SQ 744 because we cannot afford it. “We would probably have to cut a lot more jobs if it passes and there is no guarantee that it will help the kids it only promotes the Unions.
“I just don’t think it will do what they think it will do and I don’t think we have the money for it,” poll respondent Lorene Webster of Tulsa said. Ms. Webster went on to mention that she feels there is a tremendous amount of wasted money in the public school system.
As support for SQ 744 has plummeted, support for State Question 754, which was introduced to counteract 744, has increased from 22 percent in favor in July to 43.2 percent in favor when polling wrapped up Friday.
SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Pollster, commissioned and conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 352 likely voters from Oct. 3 – Oct. 7, 2010. The study has a margin of error of ± 5.2 percent.