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Given the importance of domestic exploration and refining Oklahoma’s economy, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission recently (April 16, 2009) wrote a letter to President Obama contending that the President’s energy tax increases in his proposed federal budget “would have disastrous effects on Oklahoma’s efforts to educate its children, clean its environment, and create jobs.”

The letter makes several specific arguments and Oklahoma’s likely voters are largely in agreement with three of four major points of the letter.

“Oklahoma is an energy exporting state. Any federal efforts to curb that industry will be met skeptically by our public.  The experience of the previous bust looms large even for those who were employed in energy.  The reality is that we are all in the energy sector, and this exposure, despite our economic diversification, colors the perceptions of the public.” explains Dr. Keith Gaddie, SoonerPoll Vice President.

SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study via telephone of 318 likely voters in Oklahoma chosen at random April 23-26, 2009. The study has a margin of error of ± 5.5%.

SoonerPoll followed up on the recent letter to President Obama from the Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners:

  • 59.1% agree that such new taxes on oil and natural gas will reduce investment in new oil and natural gas products;
  • 56.6% agree that such new taxes will hinder the state’s ability to cleanup abandoned oil and natural gas drilling sites;
  • 51.6% agree that attempts to repeal accounting tax deductions afforded the American oil and natural gas industry will halt or strictly curtail drilling activities in the state;
  • 43.4% agree that if the proposed tax increases are adopted, Oklahoma will suffer not just a recession, but will return to economic depression.

More conservative voters were more prone to agree that the bill will reduce investment in new oil and natural gas products in Oklahoma. Respondents in Oklahoma City (60.4%) were more concerned about the taxes curtailing drilling activities, compared to respondents in Tulsa (49.4%) or the rest of the state (45.2%).

“The greater concern we see in Oklahoma City is a result of the metro reemerging as a significant energy player. In the recent years of Devon Energy, Chesapeake and SandRidge Energy growth, it used to be that OKC was the cattle capital. Now Oklahoma City is also an energy capital, more so than ever before. Despite our more diversified economy compared to the 1980’s, we live and die with oil and natural gas.” describes Gaddie.

“The lessened sensitivity to an enduring economic downturn arising from new taxes likely reflects the lessened direct employment in energy by Oklahomans.  It also reflects the relatively strong health of the local economy compared to the recent past of the 1990s.”

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Oklahomans describe Obama as moderate to liberal, yet half approve.

A recent SoonerPoll shows that most Oklahomans classify president Obama’s political views as liberal, though approval ratings remain high.

In an effort to dig deeper into approval/disapproval ratings by Oklahoma’s likeliest voters for Obama, SoonerPoll asked, “Thinking now about President Obama, do you consider him to be liberal, moderate or conservative in his political beliefs?”

The results showed 67.3 percent of Oklahoma’s likely voters believe President Obama’s political views are liberal. These results are usually accompanied by low approval ratings but the poll’s other results show 44.5 percent of those who said they approve of the job Obama has performed as President so far described his views as liberal.

“That a plurality of Oklahomans, who are generally conservative, would give approval to such a liberal president is an indication of the potentially open and fluid situation in the state’s politics,” said Dr. Keith Gaddie, University of Oklahoma professor of Political Science and SoonerPoll Vice President.

The poll also revealed Oklahoma voters who consider themselves as very conservative in their political views are 28 percentage points more likely to describe Obama’s views as very liberal than those Oklahoma voters who consider themselves as somewhat conservative.

“What we see here is the role of position on perception,” said Gaddie. “The more conservative you are, the more liberal President Obama appears. The more liberal you profess to be, the more likely you are to see the President as a moderate.”

SoonerPoll’s public opinion polls use a scientific random sample to consistently test Oklahoma’s likeliest voters’ political views and track them over time. The survey used in this analysis had a sample sizes of 318 Oklahoma residents (with a margin of error of ± 5.5%). The study used in this release was conducted via telephone between April 23-26, 2009.


  • 67.3% of Oklahoma’s likely voters believe that President Obama’s political views are liberal (54.4% very liberal and 12.9% somewhat liberal), 23.3% moderate, 3.5% conservative and 6% refused to answer or didn’t know;
  • Oklahoma Republicans are 29.6 points more likely to describe Obama’s political views as liberal than Oklahoma Democrats (86.8% v. 57.2%);
  • Those respondents that reside within the Congressional District represented by Dan Boren (D) were least likely to describe Obama’s views as liberal compared to the other four Oklahoma districts (an average of 10.8 points less);
  • Married men were significantly more likely to describe Obama’s views as liberal than married women, single men or single women (an average of 23.5 points more likely);

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Oklahomans are Worried about Strings Attached to Stimulus Money

Despite Governor Henry accepting all funds allocated to Oklahoma from the national stimulus bill, when asked by SoonerPoll, Oklahoma’s likely voters said that they think Henry should only accept funds with no strings attached (44%). Two of every ten respondents said he should accept all funds regardless of strings and an additional quarter said he should refuse all funds.

SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study using a random digit dial method via telephone of 318 likely voters in Oklahoma April 23-26, 2009. The study has a margin of error of ± 5.5%.

Obama’s Stimulus Bill

SoonerPoll.com then questioned Oklahoma’s likely voters on issues of the recent stimulus bill. Of most criticism of such legislation were too much spending in general (79.6%) and concerns of earmarks and pork-barrel (74.8%).

Other stimulus issues asked were controversial as well:

• 62.3% feel that the bill does not provide enough tax cuts for businesses and/or individual tax payers;

• 61.9% feel that the bill contains too much delayed spending on projects that will not start for several years;

• 61.6% feel that the bill does not focus enough on job creation and/or worker training.

Nationally, voters rank too much pork-barrel spending as their number one concern regarding the stimulus bill. Another national major concern is that the bill does not provide enough tax cuts for individual tax payers. Oklahomans have feelings comparable to Americans regarding to pork-barrel spending. They are somewhat less concerned than other Americans about the legislation not providing enough tax cuts to individuals.

Republicans were more likely to criticize the stimulus bill because it includes too much spending in general (97.1%) than Democrats (72.4%) and Independents (72.4%) in Oklahoma. Fifty three (53.1%) of all those who answered that they think Governor Henry should accept all stimulus funds agree that the bill includes too much spending. Indeed, 93.3% of all those who think Henry should only accept funds with not strings attached feel that the bill includes too much spending.

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Obama’s Performance So Far

After testing specific areas of performance of the President’s first 100 days in office, SoonerPoll compared Oklahoma’s likely voter’s perceptions to those of the nation through a poll conducted by Hart and McInturff (February 26 – March 1, 2009) for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal of 1,007 adults across the nation with a margin of error of 3.1%.

SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study “via telephone of 318 likely voters in Oklahoma chosen at random April 23-26, 2009.” The study has a margin of error of ± 5.5%.

The Oklahoma electorate is more clearly divided than the rest of the nation on the overall performance of President Obama in office, both in general terms and on specific policy dimensions. Oklahomans are somewhat more skeptical of Obama, giving him an approval rating (46.5%) 21 points lower than the nation.

Oklahomans also portray similar, but less, skepticism with how he’s handled the economy (47.2% approve) when compared to the national approval by nine points, but the disapproval number in Oklahoma (48.1%) is 17 points higher than in the rest of the nation.

Oklahomans are clearly decided one way or the other. Obama’s Oklahoman approval rating is 15 points higher than the percentage who cast their vote for him last November. The exact same spread exists with national comparisons as well. This suggests that voters do not feel 100 days is quite enough to assess his performance but are willing to give him the opportunity to earn their approval. Oklahomans are skeptical compared to other Americans in their assessment of the likelihood of success by the new Administration on several specific policy imperatives:

  • Oklahomans were 18 points behind the rest of the nation (48% to 66% in thinking that Obama will get the economy back on track;
  • Were 21 points behind the rest of the nation (60% to 81%) in thinking troops will be pulled out of Iraq;
  • Half as likely as national voters (18% to 33%) to think his Administration will cut the budget deficit in half;
  • Far less likely (29% to 47%) to reduce the influence of lobbyists;
  • Were almost 20 points less likely (34% to 54%) to think he could reduce dependency on foreign oil;
  • Were 27 points less likely (54% to 81%) to think Obama will improve America’s image around the world;
  • Were 26 points less likely (52% to 78%) to think Obama will improve health care coverage to uninsured Americans;
  • Were 23 points less likely (42% to 65%) to think Obama will reduce taxes for middle class Americans

“What is going on in Oklahoma is in fact a reflection of what is going on in the rest of the nation,” said SoonerPoll’s Keith Gaddie. “Obama is winning broad-based approval from Democrats, Independents, liberals, and moderates on nearly every issue, while conservatives are generally skeptical and the strong conservatives are the most pessimistic. Where Obama loses moderates is on two major issues from his campaign — reducing lobbyist influence and increasing energy independence.”
“Oklahoma voters are extending to the new president the benefit of the doubt on most issues, but the generally more conservative electorate will not extend the kind of approval seen in the nation writ large.”

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