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public opinion

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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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By Randy Krehbiel World Staff Writer

Newt Gingrich’s charisma and intelligence may trump all other considerations for Tulsa-area Republicans, a focus group of likely voters in the March 6 GOP primary indicated last week.

The 11 registered Republicans with a history of voting in primary elections were assembled by SoonerPoll.com at the Tulsa World offices three days after Gingrich’s victory in the South Carolina primary pushed him to the front of the GOP presidential field.

The focus group included six men and five women. Four identified themselves as Gingrich supporters, two for Mitt Romney, one for Ron Paul and one for Rick Santorum. Three said they were undecided, and one Romney supporter said she was now leaning to Gingrich.

“I think I feel the way I’ve already heard some of you speak,” said Denise Miller of Tulsa. “With Romney, I don’t feel convinced that I know what he stands for or doesn’t.

“So there is Newt, who is a little bit of a loose cannon … but, by golly, you know where that man stands.”

Several indicated a true preference for Herman Cain, who is no longer actively campaigning, and at least one said Michele Bachmann, another candidate who’s fallen by the wayside, was his first choice.

Real estate developer Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida were also mentioned as “dream” candidates.

All said it is imperative Republicans ultimately unite behind one candidate to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

Read the rest of the article at www.tulsaworld.com

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A majority of likely Oklahoma voters support removing the law that allows state employees the option of having their public employee association dues, formerly known as union dues, withheld from their paycheck, according to a recent SoonerPoll.com study.

The study found that 56 percent of respondents would like to see the state government removed from the employee association dues collection process.  By comparison, 32.3 percent of respondents said they opposed removing the provision, while 11.7 percent had no opinion.

In 2001, voters passed Right-to-Work in Oklahoma, which says that an employee has a right to work for a company or a state or local government without having to join a union.  Its passage not only made union membership voluntary, but also changed the existing state’s public employee unions, by definition, to that of employee associations.

Current statutes allow state employees the option of having their employee association dues withheld from their paychecks each month.  Payroll deductions for employee association dues are voluntary and, if an employee elects to have their dues withheld, the state government is required to comply.

“Voters may see the state collecting employee association dues as a remnant of the old system when union membership and the paying of union dues were mandatory,” said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com.  “Because it is now voluntary and has been since 2001, voters may view association dues as any other voluntary or personal expense of the employee and thinking it should be treated as such.”

See Complete Data and Analysis

Voluntary payroll deductions for professional organizations in Oklahoma dates back to a 1977 Extraordinary Session of the 36th Oklahoma Legislature.  During that session, legislation that provided school district employees the option of having both professional organization dues and political contributions deducted from their paycheck was ratified.

In 1984, the legislature extended voluntary payroll deductions for professional organization dues to the membership of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.

Current Oklahoma law also allows state employees to make voluntary payroll deductions for retirement plans, supplemental insurance plans, approved charities, payments to Oklahoma banks or credit unions, or other state-approved entities.

The state pays for the administrative costs of processing payroll deductions by levying a 2 percent charge on the gross annual premiums for insurance plans and a 1 percent charge on the gross annual payments for retirement plans.

Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello  supports removing the state government from the collection employee association dues.

“Many of the associations benefiting from state payroll deductions have lobbyists and PAC’s,” Costello said.  “Right now, the partisan political activities of some employees are being subsidized by all employees who have state insurance or retirement plans, and ending payroll deductions for employee associations will remove politics from the paychecks of government workers.”

Additional poll analysis reveals that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats support changing the law.  Results show that 58.1 percent of Republicans and 52.4 percent of Democrats support the ending the state’s processing of employee association dues.

The study did find that division grows when results are broken down by political label.  Crosstab data indicates that 60.8 percent of conservative respondents support removing the deductions compared to just 40.7 percent of liberal respondents.

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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After nearly a year on the job, 70 percent of likely Oklahoma voters approve of the way Governor Mary Fallin is doing her job, a recent SoonerPoll.com study reveals.

Results from the poll indicate that 69.3 percent of respondents approve, 16.2 percent disapprove, and 14.5 percent either do not have an opinion or do not know Mary Fallin.  The study was fielded between November 17 and December 6, 2011.

Although this is the first time SoonerPoll has released the governor’s approval ratings since she took office last January, it is not the first time the question was polled.  Results from two previous studies show that Fallin held a 63.7 percent approval rating in May before dropping to just  58.1 percent in July.

November’s numbers are a dramatic improvement over July numbers, which followed the ending of the legislative session.  The 2011 legislative session marked the first time in state history that a GOP governor presided over a large GOP majority house and senate.

Fallin’s 69.3 percent approval is still slightly less than Former Governor Brad Henry’s final approval rating of 70.8 percent in January of 2011.  Despite his political affiliation and his tendency to take a stand against popular conservative initiatives in the state, Henry enjoyed remarkably high approval rating throughout his terms as governor.

In Fallin’s first year in office she has already had a lower approval rating than Henry, whose approval never slipped below 62.2 percent at any time during the five years SoonerPoll tracked his approval.

Further crosstab analysis reveals that 77.7 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents and 62.4 percent of Democrats all approve of the way the governor is doing her job.  Similarly, a majority of conservative, moderate and liberal respondents approve of the governor.

Before being elected governor in 2010, Fallin served as the congresswoman for Oklahoma’s fifth district.  However, when results are broken down by congressional district, only 69.5 percent of respondents in district 5 approve of the governor, compared to 72.5 percent approval in the district 1 and 72 percent in district 4.

Though Fallin received slightly less support from the congressional district she once represented, she received 72.3 percent approval in the Oklahoma City Metro Surrounding Area (MSA).  By comparison, 68 percent of respondents in the Tulsa MSA and 68.4 percent of respondents in the Rest of State MSA approve of the governor.

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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A majority of likely Oklahoma voters would support legislation to give the state auditor the legal authority to initiate systematic performance audits on any or all state agencies, a recent SoonerPoll study shows.

Results indicate that 74.2 percent of likely Oklahoma voters polled would support such legislation, 56.6 percent said they would “strongly support” it.  Only 16.4 percent said they would oppose the legislation, while 9.4 had no opinion.

Government Auditing Standards define a performance audit as “an objective and systematic examination of evidence to provide an independent assessment of the performance and management of a program against objective criteria.” Put simply, performance audits indicate areas in which state agencies can improve operations and spend taxpayer dollars more wisely.

Currently, Oklahoma state law does not authorize the Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector to initiate performance audits.

According to State statutes, the auditor can only begin an audit “upon receiving a written request to do so by the Governor, the chief executive officer of a governmental entity or pursuant to a concurrent resolution of the legislature.”

“Most Oklahomans want their state government to continue to look for ways to provide greater transparency,” said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com. “I think most Oklahomans realize there is something inherently wrong with a system that allows agencies to decide whether or not they want to be audited.”

Shapard said it makes sense that only agencies with nothing to hide would volunteer to be audited.

“The fundamental mission of the State Auditor is to make sure that taxpayer money is spent wisely in every state agency, not just the ones that ask for an audit,” Shapard said.

Additional crosstab analysis reveals that 76.1 percent of Democrats and 70.9 percent of Republicans said they would support the legislation.  According to crosstab data, 74 percent of both liberals and conservatives favor the legislation.

“The bipartisan nature of the results just goes to prove that regardless of whether a person advocates for a big government or a small government, they want that government to be transparent about how money is spent,” Shapard 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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Most Oklahoma voters agree that Oklahoma banks are different than “Wall Street firms,” a new SoonerPoll study shows.

Results indicate that 73.6 percent of likely Oklahoma voters polled agreed with the statement “Oklahoma banks are much different from the “Wall Street firms” that are often referred to as “banks” by the media.”

The study found that 48.6 percent of respondents said they “strongly agreed” with the statement, while another 25 percent said they “somewhat agreed.” Only 16.8 disagreed, and 9.6 had no opinion.

“It is reassuring to see that Oklahomans draw a distinction between their community banks and Wall Street,” Roger Beverage, Oklahoma Bankers Association President, said. “These results are especially encouraging during this time of economic uncertainty that has yielded large scale backlash at Wall Street.”

Beverage said that though the poll questions only focus on the voting public’s perception, the difference between “Wall Street firms” and OBA-member banks is real.

Traditionally, Oklahoma banks take in money through consumers’ account deposits, which are insured through the FDIC, and then loan it back to the community in the form of auto, home, or business loans. By comparison, Wall Street firms focus primarily on facilitating the sale of stocks and bonds and operate as advisers and agents for companies that want to raise capital.

SoonerPoll asked respondents the same question last January and found that 60.9 percent of respondents saw a difference between Oklahoma banks and “Wall Street Firms.” Only 12.8 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement, which left 26.4 percent undecided.

In January, Beverage suggested that the 26.4 percent of undecided respondents presented an opportunity for improvement. Since then, the undecided rate has dropped 16.8 points and the percent who agreed with the statement has increased 12.7 points.

By comparison, the percentage of respondents who disagree with the statement has only increased 4 points.
“By a three-to-one margin, those who were undecided are beginning to agree with the statement,” Beverage said. “Last January I said the undecided percentage was a number we had to improve on, and I’d say these results indicate that Oklahoma banks have done a pretty good job of demonstrating those significant differences.”

When results concerning the difference between Oklahoma banks and “Wall Street firms” are broken down by party very little variation is evident, but political label did affect results. Of those who consider themselves conservatives, 77.8 percent agree there is a difference, compared to just 59.2 percent of liberals.

Beverage said there is no doubt that Oklahoma bankers have helped Oklahomans better understand the differences between Oklahoma’s traditional community banks and Wall Street firms, but that there is always more work to be done.

“When Oklahomans understand that difference they realize that OBA-member banks are the solution to the nation’s problems, not the cause of them,” Beverage said.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Bankers Association. SoonerPoll.com 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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A recent SoonerPoll reveals that more than half of likely Oklahoma voters have a favorable opinion of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System (OTRS).

A 55.9 percent majority of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of the OTRS, while only 23 percent said they had an unfavorable view.  Additional results indicate that OTRS has a higher approval rating than most public or state pension programs.

Before they were asked about specific retirement systems, respondents were asked whether they have favorable or unfavorable opinions of pension programs for public or state employees in Oklahoma in general.  Results show that only 48.9 percent of likely Oklahoma voters have favorable opinions of public or state employee pensions in general.

Pension Commission report data from the end of fiscal year 2011 revealed that OTRS outperformed all other Oklahoma public retirement funds in both one-year and long-term returns. The strong performance by OTRS places it among the top 25 percent of pension funds in the U.S.

“The Board of Trustees and staff of the teachers retirement system have worked diligently to enact a strategy of investment diversity, and the figures bear out we are having success as a result,” Dr. James Wilbanks, OTRS executive director, said.

Favorability of OTRS crosses political and ideological lines, with a majority of conservative, liberal, and moderate Oklahoma voters indicating a favorable view of the retirement system. A 59 percent majority of moderates approve of OTRS, compared to 57 percent of liberals and 53 percent of conservatives.

Other results from the same poll reveal that 80.4 percent of those polled disagreed with the statement “state employees, including teachers, receive too many benefits, such as health insurance and retirement.”   Only 13.5 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, while 6.1 had no opinion.

Like results concerning favorability of OTRS, further analysis indicates the results cross political and ideological lines. When asked about state employees receiving too many benefits, 85.6 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans disagreed.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System.   SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific poll July 25-Aug. 11. Likely Oklahoma voters were selected at random and given the opportunity to participate in the poll by phone or online. Of the 587 respondents who participated, 17 took the survey online and 570 responded via telephone interview. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.04 percentage points.

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The national debt currently stands at over $14.7 trillion, and that sum causes great concern to Oklahomans, regardless of political affiliation. By the same token, an overwhelming majority of Oklahomans support a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget.

SoonerPoll recently conducted a survey that asked respondents’ thoughts on the national debt, and on a balanced budget amendment, and I think you’ll find the results to be interesting.

Here in Oklahoma, support for requiring the federal budget to be balanced has broad appeal. 76.2% of those polled supported such a measure, while just 17.7% opposed.

When you dig further into those numbers, 67.7% of Democrats along with majorities of those who identify as liberals support the amendment. Contrary to what the mainstream media might imply, balancing the budget isn’t a “radical” idea from the Tea Party, it’s a unifying concept across the political spectrum. In the SoonerPoll survey, there wasn’t a single demographic or subset that did not support a balanced budget amendment.

Every state except for Vermont has some sort of a balanced budget requirement, and at various points in American history, balanced budget amendments have come close to being considered or enacted (in the 1990’s, a Balanced Budget Amendment passed the U.S. House and came one vote short in the U.S. Senate).

Part of the reason for this popular support of a balanced budget amendment is the soaring national debt. Just eleven years ago, the national debt stood at just under $5.7 trillion dollars. Nine trillion dollars later, worry over the debt and our future is at an all time high.

Those surveyed by SoonerPoll were asked to use a 0 to 10 scale to express their concern regarding the national debt (with ‘0’ meaning ‘not at all concerned, and ‘10’ meaning ‘extremely concerned’). The results really are remarkable. Among all respondents, 4.2% responded in the 0 to 4 range, 4.4% were neutral, 24.2% were 6 to 9, and an astounding 66.3% picked ‘10’ for ‘extremely concerned’.

Again, as with the balanced budget question, large majorities of every possible group expressed extreme concern over the national debt. To Oklahomans, this is not a partisan issue, with Democrats on one end of the spectrum and Republicans on the other, balancing as if on a teeter-totter. Instead, as the debt continues to rise on one side, they are both sitting on the edge of the opposite side.

In the past few years, little has brought these two issues to light more forcefully than the emergence of the Tea Party. The crushing national debt and the perpetually unbalanced federal budget have and continue to be focal points for the grassroots movement. As a result, the national conversation has turned to these topics.

Regardless of how the two issues are addressed, Oklahomans are extremely concerned about the national debt, and are united in their support of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Oklahomans have it right, and with red ink threatening to swamp the entire country, the President and Congress need to take note.

Jamison Faught s a guest political analyst and commentator at SoonerPoll.com.  Jamison is a conservative political activist and the author of MuskogeePolitico.com, one of the top political blogs in the state.

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The latest SoonerPoll reveals most likely Oklahoma voters are both concerned about the current national debt and supportive of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

SoonerPoll asked respondents to use a 0-to-10 scale, where 0 means not concerned at all and 10 means extremely concerned, to rate their concern about the $14 trillion dollar debt.  Results reveal that 66.3 percent of respondents rated their level of concern a 10, and 84.4 percent of respondents rated their concern an 8 or more.

When asked whether they support or oppose a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance the budget, 76.2 percent of respondents said they support the amendment.  Only 17.7 percent of respondents oppose the amendment while 6.1 percent had no opinion.

When results are examined by political affiliation, it is revealed that even though majorities of both parties are concerned about the deficit the responses still break down along party lines.  Further analysis indicates that 90.8 percent of Republicans rated their concern with the deficit at an 8 or more, 11 points more than the 79.8 percent of Democrats who said the same.

Responses break down even further when support of a balanced budget amendment is examined by party, though large majorities of both parties support amending the constitution.  Results show that 86.1 percent of Republicans support the amendment, a percentage nearly 20 points larger than the 67.7 percent of Democrats who support the amendment.

Similarly, a correlation between conservatism and support of the amendment is revealed when results are broken down by political label.  Analysis indicates that 86.7 percent of very conservative respondents support a balanced budget amendment, a percentage which steadily decreases across the political spectrum reaching just 51.1 percent among very liberal respondents.

“Here in Oklahoma, we have to live within our means and the state government has to operate in the black,” John Ex, a poll respondent from Stilwell, Okla., said. “I would like to see the federal government have to do the same thing”

Elisabeth Ruhl of Greenie, Okla., expressed that she was extremely concerned about the rising national debt.  “We have to pay it back somehow or we just leave it to the generation after us,” Ruhl said. “I think a balanced budget would be better than spending money we do not have.”

O.G.Tate of Enid, Okla., said that concern about the deficit is one thing that unites us all, but what to do about it is a different story.

“In ordinary times if you had asked me about a balance budget amendment the answer would be yes, but now you cannot do it until you get the economy back on track,” Tate said. “To get back on track we have to put people to work and that means creating infrastructure jobs and it takes money to do that.”

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned this poll.  SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific poll July 25-Aug. 11. Likely Oklahoma voters were selected at random and given the opportunity to participate in the poll by phone or online. Of the 587 respondents who participated, 17 took the survey online and 570 responded via telephone interview. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.04 percentage points.

Be sure to read guest political analyst Jamison Faught’s commentary on these results.


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A survey by SoonerPoll.com on behalf of Ovarian Cancer Awareness indicates many Oklahoma women are confused about known risk factors for ovarian cancer as well as which medical tests can help detect ovarian cancer.

The study also revealed that respondents were unfamiliar with several symptoms of ovarian cancer.

“It’s not surprising that we are finding some of these results,” said Anna Schlichting, organizer of Anna’s Belles, Oklahoma’s only ovarian cancer support group. “Symptoms of ovarian cancer are so vague, it’s easy to attribute them to other conditions.”

When asked about known risk factors, two in three women polled said “family or personal history of cancer,” however only 22 percent of respondents said “being over the age of 50” which is also a known risk factor.

Interestingly, two practices which are known to decrease risk, “taking oral contraceptives for more than five years” and “having multiple pregnancies,” were indicated by 24 and 13 percent respondents respectively as known risk factors.

“There are certainly some risks with taking oral contraceptives, but studies are showing the benefits of protecting women against ovarian cancer far outweigh those risks,” said Schlichting.

When  the women were asked to indicate medical tests that can help detect ovarian cancer in the early stage, a 56.3 percent majority of women said ”Pap smear,” which is a medical test used to detect cervical cancer but not ovarian cancer.  Another 2.3 percent of women polled said “mammogram,” which is a medical test that detects breast cancer, but, again, does not detect ovarian cancer.

“Unfortunately, women assume that by going for their yearly exams, they are being tested for things like ovarian cancer,” said Schlichting. “But when it comes to this disease, you have to demand additional testing from your doctor to prove you do not have it – especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms. Early detection increases your chances of survival to 92 percent, so it could literally save your life.”

Two other tests which can sometimes detect ovarian cancer, “a transvaginal ultrasound” and “CA 125,” were mentioned by 21 and 12.3 percent of women respectively.  Only 11 percent of women said “there is no test that can be used for early detection,” the answer doctors say is most correct.

“There is no true test for ovarian cancer at this time,” said Schlichting. “The ultrasound and CA 125 are the closest we have.”

According to the poll, some symptoms are more well-known than others.  “Pelvic and/or abdominal pain” was the only symptom which a majority, 56 percent, of women indicated.  “Bloating,” “urinary symptoms” and “difficulty eating or feeling full quickly” were only indicated by 40, 27 and 23 percent of respondent s respectively, though all three are symptoms.

“They used to say ovarian cancer was a silent killer, but the truth is, it whispers,” said Schlichting. “Obviously, if you are feeling abdominal pain, that is a clear sign from your body that something is wrong. But if you are suddenly experiencing a combination of these other symptoms, these are also signs that you need get checked out. You know your body better than anyone, so listen to it.”

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by Ovarian Cancer Awareness.   SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific poll July 25-Aug. 11. Likely Oklahoma women voters were selected at random and given the opportunity to participate in the poll by phone or online.   The study was administered to 300 women and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.

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