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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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Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich received the support of one-third of the 400 likely Republican Primary voters polled in a recent SoonerPoll.com study.

With 33.3 percent plurality, Gingrich leads in Oklahoma by more than a two-to-one margin over former Governor Mitt Romney who came in second with 14.3 percent.

“Since Republican primary candidates rarely visit Oklahoma on the campaign trail, it is not uncommon for Oklahoman’s opinions to mirror national polls receiving media attention,” Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com, said.

The SoonerPoll went in the field on November 17, and results from Gallup’s daily poll of the Republican field have revealed Gingrich to be the nationwide front-runner since November 13.

Romney consistently came in second in the Gallup daily poll during the time the SoonerPoll.com study was conducted, though never with less than 21 percent.

“It is not really surprising that the leader and runner up in our poll mirrored the national polls,’ Shapard said.  “But what is surprising is how much lower Romney’s poll numbers are compared to nationwide numbers reported in the media.’

Romney received just 14.3 percent in the SoonerPoll study, despite maintaining numbers in the mid to high twenties nationwide.

Shapard said that since the poll only asked respondents who they would vote for, there is very little data to help explain why Romney’s numbers are lower in the state.

See Complete Data and Analysis

Governor Rick Perry came in third, earning 9.3 percent, followed by Representative Ron Paul who garnered the support of 4.3 percent of respondents.

Nationally, Ron Paul has been polling in third place ahead of Rick Perry, but Shapard said additional data may shed some light on why the results are reversed in the state.

“Perry has had the majority of his success among evangelical Americans, and when we look at the crosstabs we see Perry polling within a single percentage point of Romney among evangelical Oklahoma voters,” Shapard said. “Though we can never be sure, this may account for why Perry is bucking the national trend here in Oklahoma.”

Former business executive Herman Cain was a serious candidate when fielding began on the SoonerPoll study.  Cain suspended his campaign during the fielding process, but his name was read to respondents until the end of the study for consistency.

Cain received support from 9.3 percent of respondents in the study.

Shapard said that since Cain has not officially backed a candidate, it is unclear how his percentage of votes will break in Oklahoma.

“Based on how Gingrich’s rise coincided with Cain’s downfall in the national polls, we would expect many of Cain’s Oklahoma supporters to break for Gingrich,” Shapard said. ”But again, the nature of this type of polling makes it impossible to speak definitively on such matters.”

Three other candidates received less than 4 percent in the study.  Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman finished with 3.5 percent, 1.5 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

SoonerPoll plans to continue polling the race in the coming months as well as the general election that will follow.

“A lot can change in a few short months,” Shapard said. “It will be interesting to see how much opinion changes between now and March 6th.”

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned this poll.  SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific poll Nov. 17-Dec. 16, 2011.   Likely Oklahoma voters who identified themselves as Republicans were selected at random and given the opportunity to participate in the poll by phone or online. Of the 400 respondents who participated, 4 took the survey online and 396 responded via telephone interview. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

 

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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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SoonerPoll found that likely Oklahoma voters cite a lack of job opportunities, an undereducated population and over dependency on the oil and gas industry as the top reasons a below average percentage of Oklahoma’s population is working.

Recent U.S. Census Bureau data revealed that 40.7 percent of Oklahoma’s population is working, compared with 45.4 percent nationally.  When respondents were asked what is most to blame for the disparity “Oklahoma’s lack of job opportunities” was the most popular response, with 26.7 percent.

“Oklahoma’s population is undereducated” and “Oklahoma is too dependent on the oil and gas industry” were the second and third most popular choices with 18.1 percent and 15.3 percent respectively.

See the Complete Results and Analysis

Crosstab analysis reveals only slight statistical deviations between the answers given by Republicans and Democrats.  However, when results are broken down by political label several correlations become apparent.

Results indicate that liberals are most likely to choose “Oklahoma is too dependent on the oil and gas industry” with 20.7 percent compared to 16.6 percent of moderates and just 13.6 percent of conservatives.

Similarly, liberals were most likely to blame “Oklahoma’s lack of job opportunities” and twice as likely as conservatives to say “Oklahoma has poor leadership.”  Further analysis reveals that 17.4 percent of conservatives had no opinion, making them twice as likely liberals to have no opinion.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster commissioned the poll.   The scientific study was conducted 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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Early May approval ratings from SoonerPoll reveal that 33.6 percent of likely Oklahoma voters polled approve of the way President Barack Obama is doing his job. Though the president’s approval remains low in Oklahoma, it is a marked improvement from the steady decline that coincided with the run-up to the midterm elections which culminated in an all-time low of 26.1 percent in November.

In January of this year, SoonerPoll measured the president’s approval rating for the first time since the mid-term elections and found that 29.8 percent of those polled approved of the president. If January’s numbers represent the beginning of a recovery, then the latest numbers, which are just slightly lower than they were before the mid-term dip, may indicate a return to normalcy.

“The president’s numbers in Oklahoma have fallen to the Democratic national vote base in the state,” Keith Gaddie, Vice President of SoonerPoll.com, said. “While many Oklahomans gave the new president the benefit of the doubt after the 2008 election, events have not gone his way, and his approval rating fell, and continues at a very low level.”

Public perception is inextricably tied to current events. In all probability, the months surrounding the midterm elections, which were often marred by anti-establishment and anti-Democrat sentiments, are what led to the president’s midterm dip in approval.

Similarly, it may be important to note that the most recent approval rating numbers came from a poll that went in the field on May 2, the day after it was announced that Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, had been killed in a military action ordered by the president.

“There is often some bump after a significant foreign policy event, a ‘rally’ effect,” Gaddie noted. “The president enjoyed a small rally, but rallies depend on muting criticism, and they invariably fall away, especially in times of economic uncertainty.”

Of those who identify themselves as Democrats, 53.4 percent approve of the president. Democrats account for 77 percent of Obama’s approval rating.

Further analysis shows that 72.4 percent of self-identified liberals approve of the president. Liberals constituted 24.5 percent of those who approve of President Obama. Only 12.5 percent of conservatives and 10.6 percent of Republicans approve of the president.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster commissioned the poll. The scientific study was conducted 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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In a recent poll conducted by SoonerPoll, 53 percent of likely Oklahoma voters indicated that they would support a proposal to levy a $50 fee on Medicaid enrollees that smoke. The poll also revealed that 38.3 percent of likely Oklahoma voters polled would oppose such a proposal, while 8.7 percent had no opinion.

Jason Sutton, Health Care Policy Analyst at the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs, said these results show that Oklahomans recognize that unhealthy behaviors drive health costs to unsustainable limits.

“What Oklahomans are saying is that citizens who lead an unhealthy lifestyle in which they engage in unhealthy behavior should be held accountable when it comes to receiving tax payer subsidized health insurance,” Sutton said. “Oklahomans want Medicaid enrollees to have some skin in the game.”

OCPA’s Jason Sutton on Medicaid Fees

SoonerPoll’s Wesley Burt asks Jason Sutton, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs Health Care Policy Analyst, about his take on the latest SoonerPoll results concerning a proposal to levy a fee on smokers who recieve Medicaid.

 

The question comes at a time when many states face Medicaid budget cuts while many of their citizens continue to enroll in the program. In April, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer put forward a similar proposal that also extends a $50 fee to both enrollees who smoke and overweight enrollees.

Sutton said that Oklahoma, like many other states, faces a situation similar to Arizona’s as the state’s Medicaid enrollment continues to increase, reaching unsustainable levels.

“The real benefit of extending a fee on unhealthy behavior has less to do with the monetary value of the fee collected and more to do with creating incentives for change.” Sutton said. “If you incentivize people by requiring some cost sharing on unhealthy behaviors then you will see less people engaging in these unhealthy behaviors, which, in the long run, will lower costs for the entire system.”

Crosstab analysis reveals bi partisan support as the percentage of Republicans and Democrats who would support such a proposal is within margin of error. When results are examined by party label it is revealed that conservatives are 10 points more likely to support the proposal than liberals with 54 and 44 percent respectively.

Crosstab analysis indicates no corresponding pattern between income and support. The results do reveal that 55.5 percent of those who make less than $35,000 a year, the most likely to be Medicaid users, would support the proposal.

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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