Oklahomans back lower taxes, smaller government, SoonerPoll finds

Results of an August survey by SoonerPoll reveal that majorities of likely Oklahoma voters want lower taxes, even if it means a smaller state government with fewer services. The polling data reveals that a majority also believes state government “wastes a lot” of money.

The SoonerPoll, conducted for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, builds on 2010 results pointing to voters’ beliefs government is too big and needs major overhaul. 

The survey company provided CapitolBeatOK results obtained from two questions in a multi-question survey of voter opinion. In response to one query, likely voters preferred smaller government by a 2-1 margin. 

For that one, results follow: “I’d rather pay higher taxes to support a larger state government that provides more services.” Only 27.6 percent of respondents agreed with that statement. 

In contrast, 58.9 percent agreed with this statement: “I’d rather pay lower taxes and have a smaller state government that provides fewer services.” 

The survey found 10.9% were neutral, while 2.6 percent did not know, or refused to answer the question. 

Respondents were also asked, “Do you think that Oklahoma’s state government wastes a lot of money we pay in taxes, wastes some of it, or doesn’t waste very much of it?” A majority (51.4 percent) chose “wastes a lot.” The option “wastes some” drew 36.1 percent agreement. 

The statement that state government “doesn’t waste very much” drew only 7.5 percent agreement. On this question, 2.4 percent were neutral or had no opinion. 

Dr. Brian Bush, Executive Director of the Academy of Leadership & Liberty at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City told CapitolBeatOK, “These numbers merely confirm what we have known for some time. Oklahomans expect government to be smarter, not bigger.

“Our programs are nonpartisan, and we draw audiences from all types of political backgrounds. Left, right, and center, a consensus is building that government must adequately and intelligently build infrastructure, maintain public safety, etc., but it must do so by the least intrusive means possible.”

Bush asserted the findings in the OCPA poll should not be categorized as partisan, saying “Those who assign a party to these fundamental American values are missing the point, and that is why both national parties have had their hands slapped by the voters in recent years. Until either side understands how to govern both thoughtfully and efficiently, we will continue to see the pendulum swing left and right.

“The discussion is very similar on the state level, and leaders would do well to note that even with a balanced budget amendment and agencies often understaffed and under-funded, over 85% of the people responding to this poll said state government was wasting at least some of the money we pay in taxes.”

Other Sooner Poll data gathering commissioned by OCPA found that, when given the option, 63 percent of Oklahomans want to “reduce the Oklahoma income tax,” while 31 percent said “fund state-government services.” Further, only 22 percent wanted to raise taxes other than the income tax, and 65 percent said they do not want to raise other taxes. 

Last week, OCPA President Michael Carnuccio testified before a state legislative committee considering Oklahoma’s tax structure. He advocated a phased-in elimination of the state income tax, and pointed to the findings that Oklahomans want smaller government, not higher taxes. 

The recent results found even higher agreement with the “waste” issue than in the past, but echo those from another Sooner Poll taken in late 2010. In that one, Wesley Burt reported results finding that that “70.7 percent of Oklahomans prefer a smaller government with fewer services to a larger government with more services.”
That data itself reflected intensification of feelings among those who prefer smaller government since the last time SoonerPoll studied the question in the spring of 2010. 

In March 2010, 60.5 percent of respondents said they would like to see a smaller government. 

The results over time point to sustained majority concerns about taxation, government efficiency and wasteful spending.

The new opinion survey was conducted July 25 to August 11. Analysts with Sooner Poll estimated the error rate fell within 4.4 percent, plus or minus.