By a better than two-to-one margin Oklahomans favor cutting the state income tax to 4.75%.
Most significant groups top 50% in their support. It is supported by men (52% favor vs. 25% oppose) and women (51% favor vs. 22% oppose) urban residents (53% favor vs. 24% oppose) and rural denizens (52% favor vs. 24% oppose). Even among those Democrats with a favorable opinion of Barack Obama, 44% favor cutting the incometax while 32% oppose doing so.
In contrast to what is often seen with income taxes, upper income voters in the state do not expand their support as much as one might expect. In fact, a larger percentage of voters making less than $40,000 a year support this cut (53% favor) than is the case for those making more than $80,000 a year (51% favor).
Most swing groups support cutting the income tax to below 5%. These include those currently undecided in an Obama versus Romney presidential contest (54% favor vs. 24% oppose), those undecided on the generic legislative ballot (49% favor vs. 32% oppose) and those Democrats with an unfavorable impression of Obama (55% favor vs. 26% oppose).
Given the huge advantage we expect Republicans to have in the 2012 general election, perhaps more important is how supportive Republican primary voters (56% favor), evangelicals (58% favor) and strong conservatives (54%) are of this measure.
Interestingly, there is not a large partisan difference as Republicans are only slightly more supportive (56% favor vs. 21% oppose) than are registered Democrats (50% favor vs. 27% oppose).
Those who identify themselves as either Tea Party members (50% favor vs. 28% oppose) or Tea Party supporters (57% favor vs. 17% oppose) do not show the unbridled support one might expect. The conclusion should not be that they oppose cutting the income tax, but rather that the cut to 4.75% is not enough.
A closer examination of the data reveals that any Republican facing a primary challenge will have more risk opposing a tax cut than these topline numbers indicate at first glance.
The reason this claim can be made is because conservative groups which constitute a greater percentage of primary voters favor a 10-year phase-out of the state income tax at a more substantial rate than they favor cutting to 4.75%.
For example, 78% of those who consider themselves Tea Party members support total elimination with only 6% opposed. Similarly, 61% of Republican primary voters support elimination – up 5 points in the percentage that support the modest cut. Furthermore, more “strong conservatives” favor a 10-year elimination than favor the cut as is the case with Evangelicals (58% support cutting; 64% support phase-out).
Overall, a slight majority of Oklahomans favor a 10-year phase-out (51% favor vs. 30% oppose). On this aspect, there is a strong relationship between parties as Republicans are very supportive (62% favor vs. 20% oppose) and Democrats are evenly split (41% favor vs. 39% oppose).
On this question, we see the more traditional dynamic we expect on income tax in relationship to income. While those earning under $40,000 a year are supportive (49% favor vs. 30% oppose), among those in households with income in excess of $40,000, support increases to 55% while among those making more than $100,000 a year, support goes to 62% with 40% “strongly” favoring the eventual elimination of the income tax.
Although specific programs were not mentioned, voters also demonstrate a desire to cut the size of government and its services. By margins similar to that in support of the tax cut, voters indicate they believe “Oklahoma government is too big and should be cut” (54% agree vs. 29% disagree) and favor “cutting government programs and services” (57% agree vs. 29% disagree).
Again, when you get into more details, you start to see a wider partisan division as 67% of Republicans favor cutting government programs and services, while only 47% of Democrats hold that view.
Even among Democrats, however, a plurality favors cutting government programs and services. Again, we see the real divide being between those Democrats with an unfavorable impression of the President (60% favor vs. 28% oppose) being much more for cutting than are those with a favorable impression of Obama (34% favor vs. 55% oppose).
Among anti-Obama Democrats there is actually more supportive intensity (50% strongly favor) than among Republicans (40% strongly agree).
When SQ 640 passed more than 20 years ago, some thought Republicans were giving-up an electoral issue. This data reveals that is not the case. Taxes and taxation policy are still hot-button issues for voters. Being for smaller government and less taxation is still a basic tenet of the Republican coalition just as is support for the free-market.
Republicans now in the majority and governing in the state will be well served to remember and acknowledge this sentiment.
Editor’s Note: This analysis is taken from Sooner Survey, Volume 21, Number 1 (April 2012). The original report contains the language of the polling questions, and details on methodology. A nationally recognized pollster, McFerron has worked on political campaigns at every level in America, including, in 2001, two of the most historic referenda in Oklahoma history: the 2001 Right-to-Work campaign, and the MAPS for KIDS drive.