Oklahomans see turn of the century as just another day

Friday, December 31st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Jan. 1, 2000, will be a day to change the calendar, marking passage of one year and the entry of another, a new statewide poll of Oklahomans suggests. The Oklahoma Poll, sponsored by the Tulsa World and taken by Tulsa Surveys in late December, asked 750 people "Do you feel that the millennium has any special significance, or do you feel that it is just another year?" Seventy-one percent said it is just another year, while 27 percent said the coming in of the new year has special significance. Two percent of those polled offered no opinion.

Those living in the more rural areas of the state weren't as excited by the dawning of the 2000s as those in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed outside major metropolitan areas said it was just another year, compared to 69 percent in Tulsa and 67 percent in Oklahoma City.

Oklahomans appear to be placing less significance on the coming of the new year than people in the rest of the country, poll consultant Al Soltow, who also is director of research at the University of Tulsa. An ABC News poll in August found that 61 percent of Americans said it was just another year, while 38 percent -- 11 percent age points more than in Oklahoma -- said it had special significance.

Of those who found significance in Saturday's arrival of the new year, 47 percent in the Oklahoma Poll said it will be historical, and 19 percent said it will have religious overtones. Twenty-three percent said it will have both historical and religious significance. Soltow said Oklahomans polled picked education as the most-pressing program for the seventh year the survey has been conducted.

Second on the state list was a category that grouped economic development and unemployment. They, too, have been ranked high as a pressing problem throughout the history of the survey. Oklahomans also expressed major concerns about crime, drugs, the homeless and corruption, Soltow said. In the bigger picture, 21 percent in the Oklahoma Poll singled out health care, while 19 percent said it would be the manner in which Americans work in the expanding age of the computer as areas of major change in the next century. Another 19 percent said it would be in how children go to school.

As to whether children will be better off in the new century, 46 percent of Oklahomans think that will be the case. However, the survey found, 34 percent fear that the young will be worse off. Fifteen percent saw no significant changes for children, while 5 percent offered no opinion. Almost half of those surveyed -- 47 percent -- said they felt their local economy was about the same as it was at this time last year.

Tulsans and people living in communities outside the state's two major urban areas were much more enthusiastic than Oklahoma City residents about the status of their local economies, Soltow said. As for business conditions, 15 percent of those surveyed outside the two major urban areas said they were bad in their local communities. That compares to 8 percent in Tulsa and 7 percent in Oklahoma City. The more rural areas were the most optimistic that economic conditions will take a turn for the better, Soltow said. While 72 percent of Tulsans said there are plenty of available jobs in their local area, only 34 percent in communities outside Tulsa and Oklahoma City shared that view.