(UPDATED 6/1/2012 to include an Urban Tulsa Weekly article about renewed attempts to amend Oklahoma’s state liquor laws. The article, which ran in the May 31 – June 6 issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly, refers to the SoonerPoll.com results from August 2011.)
By Jaime Adame
Jack Bird has owned a liquor store for about 30 years.
At Columbia Package Store, 2702 E. 15 St., he estimates that wine purchases make up roughly 40 percent of all sales.
An initiative petition to sell wine in grocery stores might change that…
Results from the latest SoonerPoll indicate that likely Oklahoma voters oppose changes to the state liquor laws that would allow beer to be sold in grocery and convenient stores despite its alcohol content.
Oklahoma is unique in that beer is classified in two categories, an alcohol content of 3.2 percent or lower and an alcohol content of 3.3 percent or higher. Currently, Oklahoma state law states that beer with an alcohol content of 3.3 percent or higher cannot be sold in grocery and convenient stores.
When respondents were asked whether they believe the laws should be changed so Oklahoma classification is of a single-strength, allowing it to be sold in grocery and convenient stores, a 54.5 percent majority opposed the changes while 41.9 percent said they supported them. Only 3.6 percent of respondents had no opinion.
“This is an important, yet complex issue and in order to measure attitudes we went to great lengths to draft the question using the most unbiased language possible,” Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com, said. “Results show respondents oppose changing the law by a double digit margin.”
Later in the survey, respondents were informed that some legislators would like to change the existing liquor laws that state wine, strong beer and malt liquor must be sold in stores where customers must be at least 21 years old to enter.
When asked whether the law should be changed to allow wine and such beer to be sold in grocery stores instead of 21 and older establishments, a 61.0 percent majority of respondents opposed the changes compared to just 36 percent who supported the changes. Only 2.6 percent of respondents had no opinion.
“When voters begin to see what all a change to the liquor laws would entail, they become even more opposed to the idea of changing it,” Shapard said.
The disparity between the responses is even more pronounced when the question language includes mentions of products that could attract consumers under the age of 21. Respondents were asked whether they would support changing the law knowing it would include products like Mad Dog 20-20, Snoop Dog’s Colt 45 Blast, and 4 locos.
A 66.1 percent majority of respondents said they would not support changing the law, while just 30.8 percent said they would. The percent of respondents who had no opinion also increased, from 2.6 to 3.1 percent of respondents.
“The respondents concern about products that could attract the underage is further proof that the more Oklahoma voters know about these proposed changes, the less likely they are to support them ,” Shapard said.
One demographic that correlates with whether or not a respondent approves of changing the liquor laws is attendance of religious services.
Additional analysis reveals that respondents who attend religious services several times a week are more likely to oppose changing the law in general than those who never attend religious services. The correlation becomes even more pronounced when the religious services breakdown is applied to questions that offer more details about the changes.
A similar correlation exists when results are broken down by political label. Results reveal that on the most basic question on the subject, liberals remain evenly divided with 50 percent that oppose changing the law while a full 61 percent of conservatives oppose. Similarly, when respondents are offered more information about the changes, 56.8 percent of liberals and 71.5 percent of conservatives oppose them.
“Anyone thinking about changing the liquor laws would meet strong opposition from both conservative and religious voters,” Shapard said who went on to mention that conservatives make up 51.5 percent of likely voters while those who attend religious services at least several time a month make up another 65.4 percent.
After noting that similar legislation has been proposed and defeated in much “bluer” states than Oklahoma, Shapard said “the current climate in Oklahoma may provide too many challenges for those hoping to change the liquor laws at this time.”
SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the PR firm of Alexander & M. Kenzie. The scientific study included 587 likely Oklahoma voters selected at random from across the state to participate in the poll by phone or online. SoonerPoll.com conducted the survey between July 25 and Aug. 11 using live interviewers by telephone and an online polling option. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.04 percent.