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Poll shows Oklahoma City arena proponents have work cut out for them, Gov. Stitt with lukewarm approval rating

The Paycom Center is the current home of the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC voters will determine whether or not to replace it in a December special election.
The Paycom Center is the current home of the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC voters will determine whether or not to replace it in a December special election.

A poll from Emerson College shows proponents for a new NBA Arena in downtown Oklahoma City have their work cut out for them when it comes to public opinion.

Emerson pollsters asked people from across the state and in OKC their thoughts on a tax increase to pay for a new arena.

Advocates for the new arena say it’s a critical piece to retaining the Oklahoma City Thunder.

More than half of those surveyed in Oklahoma City were against the idea, while just shy of a quarter either didn’t have an opinion or supported it.

The pollsters surveyed 82 Oklahoma City residents and asked them, “Do (you) support or oppose a 1% sales tax in Oklahoma City for six years that would fund a new $900 million stadium for the Oklahoma City Thunder?”

  • 44 or 53% said no they did not support.
  • 18 or 22% said yes they did support.
  • 20 or 25% said they were unsure or had no opinion.

Statewide, residents had more support for the idea, with only 41% of the 495 Oklahomans polled opposed the sales tax hike to pay for a new arena.Matt Taglia, Senior Director at Emerson College Polling, said though the sample of “Oklahoma City residents is limited,” the “30 point margin,” between support and no support shows strong opposition.

Emerson College has a strong reputation, garnering an A- ranking from polling website Fivethirtyeight.

The arena also has support. It’s been championed by Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, who used a State of the City address this summer to lobby for the new arena.

Oklahoma City’s Paycom Center has been the home venue of the Thunder since 2008 when the team came to the city. It opened in 2002.

By a vote of 7 to 2, the Oklahoma City Council approved a letter of intent with the Oklahoma City Thunder to construct a new downtown arena using taxpayer funds in September.

“We have a team that wants to be here for the long haul, and our city just has to do what great cities do: We have to invest in ourselves,” Holt said in his State of the City address.

The new arena would cost at least $900 million to build, with $70 million planned to come from MAPS 4 funds and $50 million from the owners of the team — a deal that economists have panned. The remaining funds would come from a 72-month one-cent sales tax.

Other results from the poll

Gov. Kevin Stitt has a lukewarm approval rating.

Of the 495 Oklahoma residents polled, 32% say they approve of his job performance, while 31% disapprove. The rest say they are unsure or have no opinion.

Snapshots of the governor’s performance are rare due to a lack of polling in Oklahoma. But polls projecting Stitt’s performance before he was re-elected last year vastly underestimated his popularity.

President Joe Biden continues to lag behind former President Donald Trump in popularity as well. Biden’s approval rating is a paltry 24%. Additionally, a majority of respondents said Biden stole the 2020 election, or they were unsure if he had won it fairly.

In a hypothetical matchup, 55% of respondents support Trump, 27% support Biden and the remainder support someone else or are undecided.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

Robby grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Journalism degree. Robby has reported for several newspapers, including The Roanoke Times in southwest Virginia. He reported for StateImpact Oklahoma from 2019 through 2022, focusing on education.
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