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Inquirer Poll finds wide backing for privatizing liquor sales

HARRISBURG – When it comes to alcohol, a majority of Pennsylvanians agree on one thing: They want it firmly in the hands of the private sector.

So found the latest Inquirer Pennsylvania Poll, in which likely voters, by a ratio of nearly 2-1, said they favored doing away with state control over the sale of wine and liquor.

And 61 percent of respondents in the bipartisan survey said they supported allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine.

Even so, privatizing the Liquor Control Board remains an elusive goal in Harrisburg despite some big names behind the effort, including Gov. Corbett, who campaigned on the issue and often cites privatization’s popularity with the public.

Legislation calling for selling off the system has flatlined since Corbett took office, felled by Democratic foes, along with a few Republicans, who believe the state system is more responsible and reliable as well as financially beneficial, sending millions of dollars of revenue into state coffers.

Whether any privatization bill can pass muster in the 253-member General Assembly remains a question.

Yet outside the Capitol, opinions are strong. “It’s kind of goofy, don’t you think?” Claudia Utti, 65, of King of Prussia, said of the state-controlled liquor system.

Utti, a respondent in the Inquirer Poll, summed up shopping at her neighborhood Wine & Spirits Shoppe this way: In and out.

She called store employees “grouchy” and said she mostly tried to keep communication with them to a minimum. “When I am looking for something,” she said, “I just try my best to find it by myself.”

The Oct. 23 to 25 telephone survey of 600 likely voters was conducted by a Democratic firm, Global Strategy Group, and by National Research Inc., which is Republican. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent.

The poll found that 55 percent of respondents supported privatization, 28 percent opposed it, and 17 percent either did not know or did not answer.

The survey found that men, as well as those 18 to 44, were the most likely to support privatization, with 62 percent of men and 61 percent of respondents in that age range supporting it.

Seniors were more opposed – 31 percent favored privatization and 38 percent did not.

There was wide support for allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine.