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Public Opinion Research

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Most likely Oklahoma voters oppose the sale of water to out-of-state districts and communities, such as Texas, according to a recent SoonerPoll study.

Results indicate that 65 percent of likely Oklahoma voters polled oppose selling water to out of state districts and communities, compared to 29.3 percent who support selling.  Just 5.7 percent of respondents had no opinion.

Opposition to water sales has increased by more than 10 percentage points since the last time SoonerPoll polled the question.

“I knew the margin was huge in people opposing out-of-state water sales, because growth will go where the water goes and we want growth right here in Oklahoma,” said Sen. Jerry Ellis, D–Valliant.

Sen. Ellis and Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, are carrying HB 2552, a piece of legislation which would require any act relating to waters and water rights receive approval from the Oklahoma voters in a state referendum, as well as consent of the Oklahoma Legislature.

“This is very important, it’s the most valuable natural resource,” Ellis said.  “We’re saying that the final decision should be with the voters in the state of Oklahoma and it should be on the ballot to the voters.”

In recent years, decisions about selling water out-of-state have been steeped in controversy.

Many communities in north Texas have experienced major growth in the last decade.   However, to sustain their growth, those communities need a valuable resource: water.

To satisfy that need, Texas communities turned their eyes upon southeastern Oklahoma’s free-flowing waters, but controversy arose when Oklahoma refused to sell.

A 2006 moratorium on out-of-state water sales passed in the Oklahoma legislature sparked the Tarrant (Texas) Regional Water District to file a lawsuit which still hasn’t been resolved.

See Complete Data and Analysis

Ellis said that protecting our natural resources for future growth is important, but there are other factors which complicate the lawsuit.

“This gets into the Red River Compact,” Ellis said. “We have a compact that takes in four states, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, you have to think of the people downstream, and I can assure you all of this water that you’re talking about is allocated and compacted water.”

Ellis said the Red River Compact is the reason Oklahoma has won against the Tarrant Regional Water District four times in federal court; three times in U.S. District Court, and one time in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“When you start pulling water out before it goes into the Red River, you are going to change the quality and quantity of everything that is left,” Ellis said.  “In other words, you’re going to affect irrigation in SW Arkansas, you’re going to affect Shreveport, La., you are going to affect everything down stream.”

In January, the Tarrant Regional Water District asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning the 10th Circuit U.S Court of Appeals ruling.  The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and justices are expected to consider the water district’s petition at a private conference on March 23.

“It’s the lifeblood of any state or people, and we just want to make sure that Oklahoma has enough water to grow in the future,” Ellis said.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned and conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 512 likely voters from Nov. 17 – Dec. 6. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.3 percent.

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Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum leads the pack of Republican primary candidates in Oklahoma, according to a recent SoonerPoll survey.

If the election were held today, 38.5 percent of likely Republican voters who plan to participate in the March 6 GOP primary said they would cast their vote for Santorum.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would finish in second place with 23 percent.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who led Oklahoma when SoonerPoll last polled the race in December, fell to third place with just 18 percent.  Results indicate that U.S. Rep. Ron Paul would receive just 7.6 percent of the vote.

During the SoonerPoll survey fielding process, Santorum experienced a meteoric rise in the nationwide polls after sweeping the Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado primaries in early February.  Santorum has since eclipsed Romney as the nationwide front-runner in the Gallup Poll.

Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll, says Santorum’s lead in the recent SoonerPoll and his recent national attention is not coincidental.

“When we last polled the race, Santorum received just 1.5 percent of the vote.  Since then he’s won the primary in Iowa which gave him the boost he needed to win several other key states,” Shapard said.  “Oklahomans are beginning to think that if people in other states think he can win, maybe we should too.”

See Complete Data and Analysis

Additional analysis reveals that Santorum is the favorite candidate of conservative Republicans.  Of those respondents who consider themselves conservative, 42.7 percent said they would vote for Santorum.

With 21.1 percent of conservative respondents said they would vote for him, Gingrich also finishes better among conservatives. By comparison, just 17.4 percent of conservative said they would vote for Romney.

“Results indicate that Santorum has what it takes to energize the Republican base in Oklahoma, but making sure that the more moderate and liberal Republicans get out and vote is also crucial,” Shapard said.

Further analysis of the crosstabs reveals that 42.1 percent plurality of moderate and liberal Republicans said they would vote for Romney.  By comparison, 24.5 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans said they would vote for Santorum, while Ron Paul would receive 19.3 percent.

Other stark differences between Santorum supporters and Romney supporters are evident when results are broken down by religious attendance.

A 50.9 percent majority of those who say they attend religious services several times a week said they would vote for Santorum.  Inversely, a 37.5 percent plurality of those who say they never attend church said they would vote for Romney.

In an interview with Michael Konopasek of News9, SoonerPoll’s vice president Keith Gaddie said “There’s an old saying in Oklahoma politics that given the choice between a real Republican and a fake Republican, the Oklahoma Democrat will take the real Republican every time … they like genuine Republicans.”

Gaddie went on to tell Konopasek that “a genuine, socially conservative Republican is what Oklahomans see in Santorum.”

SoonerPoll plans to continue to poll the 2012 presidential election in the months ahead.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned this poll.  SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific poll Feb. 8 – 16, 2012.  The survey was administered via telephone interview to 300 likely Oklahoma voters who were selected at random.  All respondents who took the survey identified themselves as Republicans  and said they planned to vote in the March 6th primary election.   The margin of error is plus or minus 5.66 percentage points.


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BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has surged to the front among Oklahoma’s Republican voters, according to a SoonerPoll.com survey released Sunday.

Santorum was the first choice of 39 percent of the 278 likely voters who said they planned to participate in the March 6 state GOP primary.

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, first in a survey conducted last fall, dropped to third, behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who remained second.

Romney, generally considered the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, was at 23 percent, followed by Gingrich at 18.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was at 8 percent, and 13 percent were undecided.

Twenty-two of the 300 Republicans in the original sample either said they don’t intend to vote in the primary or weren’t sure if they would.

The survey was conducted Feb. 8-16, after Santorum picked up victories in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, and partly after appearances in Oklahoma City and Tulsa on Feb. 9.

“Because Oklahoma is not a leading primary state, and because one party takes it for granted and the other thinks it has no chance, the candidates don’t spend much time here,” said SoonerPoll.com President Bill Shapard.

“Romney has remained pretty steady,” Shapard said. “His share is relatively unchanged.”

The “non-Romney” Republicans, he said, seem to be still looking for a favorite.

“That’s why the seeming movement from Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum,” Shapard said.

Shapard pointed out that Santorum had been mostly in single digits, nationally and in Oklahoma, until winning narrowly in the Iowa caucuses. His three victories early this month may have convinced voters he can win.

“Rick Santorum was being held back by the fact that he was not well-known enough,” Shapard said. “Oklahomans may be beginning to think that if people in other states think he can win, why shouldn’t we.”

About the poll

SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific telephone survey of 300 likely Republican voters in Oklahoma from Feb. 8-16. Likely voters are those who have established a frequent voting pattern. The margin of error is plus or minus 5.66 percentage points.

Read more at TulsaWorld.com

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A recent SoonerPoll study shows a majority of likely Oklahoma voters agree that the government should provide incentives to individuals or companies that purchase compressed natural gas vehicles, and car manufacturers who produce them.

Results show that 52.5 percent of voters polled feel the government should provide incentives to individuals and companies that purchase CNG vehicles. Data indicated 40.1 percent of respondents disagreed and 7.4 percent remained neutral.

Similarly, 51.9 percent of respondents felt that car manufacturers that produce CNG vehicles should receive government incentives in order to make CNG vehicles competitively priced. Results showed 39.5 percent of respondents disagreed while 8.6 percent remained neutral.

“Whether it be for economic, geopolitical or ecological reasons, Oklahomans see the value in transitioning from traditional fossil fuels like oil to the cheaper, cleaner burning alternative: Natural Gas,” Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com, said. “They also recognize that market incentives are the least intrusive way the government intervene in this matter, and they are willing to allow their government to take these steps.”

When results are broken down by political party we find very little difference between the parties and level of support for incentives.

However, when results are broken down by political label we find that only 46.4 percent of conservatives favor incentives for purchasing CNG vehicles. By comparison, 57.4 percent of liberals and 61.4 percent of moderates favor incentives.

Similarly, only 47.6 percent of conservatives favor incentives for car manufacturers that develop CNG vehicles. Though support among liberals dropped to 50 percent when they were asked about manufacturers, support among moderates remained high with 60.8 percent in favor.

“I would have expected more Oklahomans to agree, we are, after all, a leading Natural Gas state with a lot to gain from such incentives,” Shapard said. “On the other hand, we are a staunchly conservative state and I think the results indicate that the conservative mantra of “keep government out of the market” may be responsible for the depressed support.”

Shapard said that the lack of support from conservative voters can be seen by Natural Gas proponents as an opportunity to improve.

“Conservatives are traditionally a very pro business subgroup of voters and it may be that no one has explained to them the benefit such incentives could provide to the economy on both a national and state level,” Shapard said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if support for incentives increased dramatically in a relatively short amount of time.”

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster commissioned and conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 512 likely voters from Nov. 17 – Dec. 6. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.3 percent.

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SoonerPoll, Oklahoma’s most recognized name in public opinion research, recently announced that it now offers a new, low cost public opinion research service. Individuals or organizations interested in low cost branding and awareness research or how the public views issues important to their goals can now take part in “The Quarterly Poll.”

“The Quarterly Poll” is a survey of 500 likely voters across Oklahoma conducted by SoonerPoll once every quarter. Participants add questions to the poll and upon completion receive toplines, crosstabs and assistance disseminating their results to the public, should they choose to do so.

“We have conducted ‘The Quarterly Poll’ on a trial basis for the last couple of quarters,” Bill Shapard, SoonerPoll chief executive, said. “Before the year started, we were approached by an organization interested in utilizing our ability to effectively measure public opinion on a regular basis.”

“We decided to devise a mechanism for others to participate at a lower cost than if they commissioned an independent survey, which eventually grew into ‘The Quarterly Poll.’”

The third installment of “The Quarterly Poll” will go into the field later this month, and according to Shapard, will have the most participants to date.

“We operated the poll on a trial basis to sort of test the waters and see if there would even be any organizations interested in including their issues on the survey,” Shapard said. The poll has become successful and, just through word-of-mouth, the 3rd Quarter survey will have a full slate of questions Shapard said.

Participants on the poll include public policy organizations, statewide associations, public relations and marketing firms, as well as lobbyists, and various print and media outlets. “What is great about this service is that it not only allows organizations to know what public opinion is on an issue now, it provides a cost effective way to conduct time-series analysis of issues or branding questions, over a period of years,” Shapard said.

SoonerPoll is preparing to launch a version of The Quarterly Poll just for businesses that wish to utilize it for branding and perception research.

“Conducting this type of research can be quite expensive,” Shapard said. “But, when companies can participate in a project that is already going into the field they can lower their costs substantially and still get the quality information they need to make informed decisions.”

SoonerPoll is the brand name utilized by Shapard Research’s public opinion research division. Shapard Research has clients across the country as well as in Oklahoma. SoonerPoll has served as the pollster of record for the Tulsa World, and regularly conducts surveys for Griffin Communications, owners of Oklahoma City’s KWTV Channel 9, and Tulsa’s KOTV Channel 6.

For more information on how to take advantage of  “The Quarterly Poll,” contact James Davenport at (405) 607-4664 or by e-mail at james@shapard.com

James Davenport is Shapard Research’s Vice President of Client Relations and a Political Analyst for SoonerPoll.com

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A SoonerPoll conducted in May reveals that 54.4 percent of likely Oklahoma voters think the current tax burden is too high. By comparison, 32.6 percent of respondents said they think the tax burden is about right and only 3.3 percent of respondents said the tax burden is too low.

Respondents were read the following question: “According to the Tax Foundation, the average Oklahoman worked from January 1 until April 2, 2011 to earn enough money to pay this year’s tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels. That’s a total tax burden of roughly 25 percent. Do you think this tax burden is too low, too high, or just about right?”

“These results demonstrate that a majority of Oklahoma voters are rightly concerned with the amount of effort that the average taxpayer has to expend to fund government,” Jonathan Small, CPA and OCPA fiscal policy director, said.  “Oklahoma families are experiencing rising costs in order to purchase essentials such as gasoline, food, clothing and health care. Yet despite a recession, state government spending continues to climb, reaching an all-time high of $16.6 billion in Fiscal Year-2010.”

OCPA’s Brandon Dutcher on Taxes

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Michael Carnuccio asks the Vice President for Policy Brandon Dutcher for his take on the latest SoonerPoll results concerning taxes.


When broken down by political party, the results reveal a similar “too low” response rate from Republican and Democratic respondents as 3.4 and 3.6 percent respectively answering “too low.” However, results also indicate that Republicans are 11.4 percentage points more likely to think the tax burden is too high while Democrats are 8.8 percentage points more likely to say “just about right.”

On the same poll, respondents were asked the following open‐ended question: “In your view, what is the maximum tax burden (federal, state, and local combined) a citizen should be required to shoulder?”

Results show that 53.3 percent of respondents indicated a percentage less than 25 percent, the number which was described in the preceding question as the percentage that the “average Oklahoman” pays each year.

According to the poll, 18.5 percent of respondents preferred a tax burden of 10 percent, while 17.7 percent preferred 15 percent. Results reveal that 17.9 percent of likely voters polled chose a response between 25 and 40 percent.

“Unfortunately, the politics of envy have historically been what have determined tax burdens,” Small said. “Policymakers need to ask a fundamental question: What portion of a person’s income – his property – should we take from him to fund government? And before we answer that question it might be wise to take a lesson from God himself, who somehow thought it was reasonable to take only 10 percent.”

Data also revealed that 1.2 percent said it depends on the taxpayers income, 0.4 percent said it should remain what it is now, while 2.4 percent indicated their support for a fair tax or flat tax system. Another 22.2 percent had no opinion.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 509 likely voters from May 2 – 12. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.34 percent.

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According to a recent SoonerPoll, 70.3 percent of likely Oklahoma voters believe that the current welfare system discourages marriage and should be changed. By comparison, 20.6 percent of respondents said the system does not need to be changed and 9 percent had no opinion.

Respondents were asked the following question: “Oftentimes, under Oklahoma’s current welfare system, a young woman can receive more financial benefits by remaining single than by marrying the father of her children. Other times, a woman who is already married, can receive more financial benefits by separating from or divorcing her husband. Some people say it is unwise to discourage marriage in this way, and that this policy should be changed. But, other people say marital status shouldn’t matter, and that the policy doesn’t need to be changed. Which view comes closer to your own?”

Most welfare programs in Oklahoma, and the rest of the United States, unintentionally create disincentives for single parents who would otherwise decide to get married through a policy of “means testing.” “Means testing” is policy designed to make sure that welfare programs only give assistance to families who need it.

This policy cuts off access to welfare programs to those who make more than a certain level of income decided by a federally‐set poverty level. Oftentimes, parents are better off staying unmarried since a spouse’s income will figure against their welfare benefits.

“Unfortunately, the ‘war on poverty’ really has been a war on the family,” said OCPA Fiscal Policy Director Jonathan Small, CPA. “I have family members and friends who have personally experienced the tough choice between marriage and government welfare, and all too often have chosen welfare, likely destroying their family and future generations.”

Small went on to say that since the ‘war on poverty’ began in the 1960s, the percentage of children born out of wedlock has increased from a little more than 6 percent to more than 40 percent.   For blacks, the percentage of births out of wedlock is over 72 percent.

Though encouraging marriage is often seen as a nonpartisan issue, further analysis reveals some variation of results along party lines. Independents are the most enthusiastic about changing the system with 76 percent in favor of change compared to 73.6 percent of Republicans and 66.7 Democrats.

Similarly, only 60.3 percent of liberals are in favor of changing the system compared to 76.5 percent of conservatives.

“No rational person disagrees with the fact that the intact two parent family is both the greatest incubator for success and the greatest, most consistent driver for economic achievement,” said Small.  “According to US Census data, more than 36 percent of single mothers with children were poor, compared to six percent of married couples with children. The overwhelming majority of poor families with children are single parent families, equaling 71 percent of all poor families with children. ”

When results are broken down by sex, men are more likely than women to support changing the welfare system with 74.4 percent of men in favor compared to just 67.4 percent of women. The crosstabs also reveal that 74 percent of evangelicals favor changing the policy, while only 66.8 percent of non-evangelicals would like the policy changed.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 509 likely voters from May 2 – 12. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.34 percent.

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Recently, Shapard Research/SoonerPoll.com conducted an extensive citizen satisfaction and public attitudes study for the City of Tulsa.  This study gathered the opinions of over 1800 Tulsa residents on a wide range of issues important to their community.  The result was an overwhelming positive response from the community, media, and elected officials of Tulsa to the information they gleaned from this study.  The model used by Tulsa can and should be used by municipalities across Oklahoma.

Here’s why this model of public opinion research is the most effective tool local government leaders can utilize to connect with, and utilize, the opinions of their citizens:

Accuracy – Nothing can compare to the quality and accuracy of a true random sampling of citizens via a professional public opinion research firm.  While there are many tools trying to create the illusion of effective surveying, they simply don’t compare to the quality or accuracy of data provide by this type of firm.

Fiscal Responsibility – Many communities balk at conducting such an extensive survey because they do not believe they can afford it, or justify it to their citizens.  However, the City of Tulsa spent no taxpayer dollars to implement this survey.  Their forward thinking and aggressive attitude towards providing citizen input created a truly innovative approach to funding that protected taxpayers’ interest.

Strategic Planning – The city of Tulsa is already working to incorporate the findings of this study into their strategic plan.  Citizens can now have confidence knowing their voices were heard as their elected officials create an agenda for their city.

Community Support – Because their voices were heard, and because the City of Tulsa was open with regards to the process, Tulsa’s elected officials are able to create greater “buy-in” from citizens, the media, and Tulsa-area elected officials for the vision they are creating for their city.

The model created by the City of Tulsa effectively removes the barriers to utilizing one of the most important aspects of public policy-making – public opinion.  Municipalities across Oklahoma should be finding out how they can replicate this model and create a truly representative policy agenda for their communities.

James Davenport is Shapard Research’s Vice President of Client Relations and a Political Analyst for SoonerPoll.com

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