So, last week, I’m driving around Oklahoma City and I keep seeing these little signs that proclaim “Big League City.” My mind recalls the riff “brand new state!” at the beginning of the song “Oklahoma.”
The fresh scent of boosterism was in the air, as the branding of Oklahoma City continued. The “yes” vote to extend the expiring MAPS for Kids tax to fund Ford Center renovations prevailed by a 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent margin.
So, where did the support for “MAPS for Hoops” come from? A look in the last TvPoll, released from News 9 on Feb. 29, informs the question.
Every education group indicated support for the extension, but the margin between those favoring the tax and those opposed was only 9.6 points among respondents with a high school education, compared to 30.8 among likely voters with a postgraduate degree.
The margin for men was 18.7 in favoring the MAPS extension, while for women was 9.5. People who made less than $25,000 were against the tax by 16.4 points, while those earning more than $75,000 favored it by 38.9. The margin among people 25 to 34 was just 3.1 for the tax extension, while those between 35 and 44 were in favor by 30 points.
But the real story is one of message. Advertising in support of the vote started after TvPoll had completed its fieldwork. Watching a local newscast became the “Night of the Living Mayors” as Ron Norick, Kirk Humphreys and Mick Cornett came on every eight minutes to assert that continuing the tax would bring the NBA, the NBA would have a positive economic impact, and Oklahoma City is ready to be a big-league city.
TvPoll conveniently asked questions on exactly these three themes that were also emphasized in the advertising featuring the mayoral trio. So, how did these themes play with voters?
Basketball fans drove home the vote: 32.8 percent of likely voters reported they were “very likely” to attend an NBA game, and another 22.2 percent said they were “somewhat likely” to attend. These voters indicated 76.3 percent support for extending the MAPS tax. Those who were not likely to attend a game indicated only 25.3 percent support for extending the tax.
Economic development appeal attracted voters: Of likely voters, 67.1 percent said that an NBA franchise would have a positive economic impact on Oklahoma City. Those voters indicated 75.9 percent support for the MAPS extension, while those who perceived no positive economic impact were 92.2 percent opposed to the extension. Those who were unsure broke 64.3 percent against the tax.
Just more than half of likely voters strongly agreed with the statement “Oklahoma City is big enough to have a permanent major-league team.” Those voters indicated 76.2 percent support for the MAPS extension. Those who “somewhat agreed” with the statement broke 51-42 opposed. Of those who disagreed that Oklahoma City is big enough to support a big-league team, 94 percent said they would vote against the MAPS extension.
Now, I concede to being part of the progressive booster crowd, but if Oklahoma City voters were sold a bill of goods, it was a bill of goods they already believed in before the media blitz.
Gaddie is professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma and president of the Southwestern Political Science Association.