February 25, 2014
Madison Grady

Oklahomans Split on replacing current Pension System with 401k-style Program

Results from the latest SoonerPoll indicate that likely Oklahoma voters are split over whether to replace the current pension system with a proposed 401k-style system. In fact, a slight plurality opposed (44.8%) moving the public-sector employees’ retirement system to a 401k-style system for new employees, compared to 40.1% who supported it.

Likely voters were also asked “which retirement system is best” and again there was no consensus among Oklahomans, with 44.4 percent of likely Oklahoma voters preferring 401k plans compared to a near equal 44.3 percent of respondents who prefer traditional pension plans.

Further results revealed that 74 percent of likely Oklahoma voters had a favorable opinion of state and local government employees, and 60 percent had a favorable opinion of pensions or retirement programs for public sector employees in Oklahoma.

“Oklahomans like our public sector employees, but more importantly they have a favorable opinion of the pension program that provides these employees with a retirement,” said Shapard. “So, the question is, if the public has a favorable opinion of the current pension system and its performance, then why replace it?”

Question wording:

Another proposed change is switching benefits to a 401(k)-style system. Currently, state employees pay into the retirement system to receive monthly pensions through a defined benefit plan based on a formula that takes into account their salary and duration of work.

Under the proposal, NEW employees would take part in a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k) plan, which would provide employees with a payout when they retire based on the amount of money contributed and investment gains or losses.

Proponents say switching to a 401(k)-style system will provide cost certainty to state government outlays, at the same time providing more portability, flexibility and choice as the private sector enjoys.

Opponents say that switching could cost billions in transition costs, deliver lower investment returns than professionally managed defined benefit plans, and have higher fees which create lower retirement security for current workers and retirees.

Knowing this, would you say your SUPPORT or OPPOSE switching benefits to a 401k-style system?

1. Support 40.1%

2. Oppose 44.8%

3. Don't know 15.1%

About the Poll conducted the scientific survey from February 1-8, 2014 with 400 likely Oklahoma voters selected at random statewide from a dual frame of both landline telephone and cell phones. The sample was weighted by age, race, congressional district and landline/cell phone usage, and stratified using a model of likely voters. The poll was commissioned by the Keep Oklahoma's Promises Coalition. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points. For smaller subgroups, the margin of sampling error is larger.

This poll conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. A complete description of the methodology can be found here.

The full Call Dispositions and Rate Calculations were calculated by and is available here.

Madison Grady
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Madison Grady