Alcohol has been known to produce strange bedfellows, and a new poll of Pennsylvanians is a fresh example.
The Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative outfit that calls itself "Pennsylvania's free-market think tank," and Keystone Politics, a self-titled "source for liberal political news and commentary," agreed enough in their opposition to the state's liquor monopoly recently to sponsor a public opinion poll on the topic.
The 1,151 people who participated in the phone survey agreed, too.
Heart + Mind Strategies, a Virginia-based market research firm, conducted the telephone survey Sept. 3-12 and found that 66 percent of likely voters want to privatize Pennsylvania's government-run wine and spirits system.
Oddly, 63 percent of those surveyed described themselves as satisfied with the current options for buying wine, liquor and beer in the state, yet they strongly support abolishing the status quo. Consumers said they believe private retailers would be better than the stores owned and operated by the Liquor Control Board. Those who shop for alcohol regularly had the strongest support for privatization, while those who rarely or never do said they're OK with the current system.
Sixty-five percent of respondents said they would like to see beer, wine and liquor sold in supermarkets and specialty stores, and 63 percent said they'd agree if only beer and wine sales were permitted at those outlets. However, only 33 percent said they want wine and liquor sales to be handled solely by beer distributors.
This survey is the most recent in a long line of polls in which Pennsylvanians have expressed support for changing the state's outdated method of selling alcohol, a system that is more restrictive than every state but Utah's. Nonetheless, measures that would shut state stores and make changes in where wine, liquor and beer could be purchased have failed to advance in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
There is one detail in the Commonwealth-Keystone poll that might garner attention in Harrisburg. Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they'd be more likely to vote for their legislators if they knew the incumbents would end the state's sales and distribution of wine and liquor. That statistic alone should make it difficult for lawmakers to sleep at night.