Self-Service in Survey Spotlight

PEMCO polls Oregon, Washington residents on pumping preferences

SEATTLE -- Recent poll results from PEMCO Insurance found that nearly two-thirds of drivers in Oregon and Washington prefer their state's full-service and self-service gasoline-pumping laws, which dictate who is allowed to pump fuel at gas stations.

In Oregon, where it is illegal for motorists to pump their own gasoline, nearly two out of three drivers (63%) support the state's ban on self-service stations.

In Washington, where drivers can choose between both full-service and self-service stations, just one-third of that state's drivers favor the notion of mandated full-service gasoline, with 60% opposing laws that prevent them from pumping their own gasoline.

"It seems that drivers in both states prefer what they're most familiar with," said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. "In casual conversations, I've heard many Washington residents voice frustration at Oregon's mandatory full-service law, and we suspected Oregonians might share that sentiment. But our poll shows that's not the case."

Oregon is one of two states that ban self-service stations, along with New Jersey. In general, the laws require that all stations train attendants to pump fuel for customers and prohibit drivers from pumping their own.

"The Oregon legislature says that full-service gas stations are especially necessary because of Oregon's high rainfall, which increases the risk of people slipping on wet pavement and falling on spilled gasoline," said Osterberg.

The Oregon State Legislature passed the self-service ban in 1951 (although self-service didn't become popular nationwide until the early 1970s) on the basis that self-service stations are less safe, increasing the risk of accidental fires. The Oregon Revised Statutes also defend today's law on economic grounds, citing that "self-service dispensing at retail locations contributes to unemployment, particularly among young people."

According to the PEMCO poll, Washington residents are unconvinced of the economic benefits of gasoline-pumping laws. The poll presented drivers with a proposed scenario suggesting that a shift from Washington's self-service model to the full-service law would result in an increased cost of about five cents per gallon and create new jobs for Washington residents. Despite the prospect of new jobs, nearly two-thirds of Washington drivers said they would oppose costlier gasoline.

Oregon drivers, however, are more motivated by economic factors--about half (49%) said they would consider favoring a change in the self-service ban if it meant saving as little as five cents per gallon.

The poll also looked at who, among drivers, is most likely to support full-service gasoline requirements. In Oregon, about seven out of 10 women support full-service stations, while only about half of men feel the same way. In Washington, both males and females generally oppose full-service stations.

In Washington, those with incomes above $50,000 are much more likely to oppose changing the law than are those with incomes below $50,000.

Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 402 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1% and +/- 5%, respectively, at the 95% confidence level.