Authors Posts by Bill Shapard

Bill Shapard

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Bill is the founder of SoonerPoll.com and ShapardResearch, a full service market research firm based in Oklahoma City. Bill began his career in polling after working on a major campaign in Oklahoma from 1996 until founding SoonerPoll in 2004. Under Bill’s leadership, SoonerPoll has become the leading public opinion polling company in the state of Oklahoma conducting more public opinion polls for Oklahoma news media than all other pollsters combined since 2006. Bill’s commitment to go above and beyond the AAPOR ethical guidelines of minimum disclosure ensures that SoonerPoll produces quality results every time. Bill has lectured at Oklahoma State University on developing polling methodologies, data collection processes, and advanced likely voter sampling techniques. Bill also serves as an on-air political commentator for Oklahoma television stations.

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Latest quarterly poll results indicate that President Obama is still very unpopular in Oklahoma, with his combined approval at 29 percent among likely Oklahoma voters.  It’s still not the worst he’s been when, during the last mid-term election year, his approval sat at a rock bottom of just 26 percent.  And, he may just be there again as his approval since last summer has been on a downward trajectory as another mid-term election year approaches.

But the question is, does anybody in Oklahoma, or elsewhere for that matter, care about the president’s approval in our little mid-America state?  The president doesn’t come here often so you could say he doesn’t care about his approval among Oklahomans.   For the better part of four decades, Oklahoma’s electoral votes have been a forgone conclusion, adding to the Electoral College column of any Republican on the ballot.  Oklahoma isn’t an early primary state, so politicos in Washington, DC and political commentators elsewhere really don’t care about the president’s embarrassing showing in our reddest of red states.

Maybe there’s one group that should care:  The Oklahoma Democratic Party.  In yet another mid-term election, state party officials will have to endure all of their candidates, up and down the ballot, being tied to an extremely unpopular and liberal president, whether it’s justified or not.  What some Oklahoma Democrat running in one of the one hundred seats in the State House has to do with a liberal Democratic president they’ve never met would be difficult for anyone to explain.

Yet, the Democrat ‘brand’ in Oklahoma is something they all share — for good or for bad, and the state party isn’t helping themselves much either.  The Oklahoma Democratic Party of the 20th Century was much more conservative and reflective of those values that over half our electorate expresses every time SoonerPoll goes into the field with a poll.  Today, conservative voters and officials have either abandoned the party or been driven out, and the Oklahoma Democratic Party of today doesn’t look anything like the party of David Boren or even Brad Henry, the state’s last Democratic governor.

This isn’t the case, however, in some other former Democratic strongholds in the nation.  West Virginia for example, which has been trending Republican yet is conservative like Oklahoma, elected former Democratic governor Joe Manchin to the U.S. Senate during Obama’s term as president. Manchin ran as a conservative, never distancing himself from his Democratic roots, but rejected the president’s liberal direction and told West Virginians he’d ‘fight against the president when he need to.’

But, this doesn’t seem to be the case for the leaders of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.  Repudiation of the president’s liberal agenda doesn’t seem to be in their dictionary; neither does the word “conservative.”  After a quick search on the Oklahoma Democratic Party website, including its Mission and Constitution, the word “conservative” is not mentioned even one time.

Liberalism, it would appear, is their ideology by choice, and there is nothing wrong with that; unless you are trying to help Democrats win in a conservative state like Oklahoma.  The Democrats, who had dominated state government since statehood, now find themselves with the smallest minority of representatives in state history and, if they continue not to care, they will find themselves with even less in November.

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According to latest SoonerPoll results, Oklahomans are ready to consider marijuana for medicinal purposes and decriminalization. The poll had support for medical marijuana at 71% and support for decriminalization at 57%. The poll did not ask about legalization.

When considering arrest for a marijuana offense, nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) said they should be treated instead of jailed.  Under current Oklahoma law, possession of any amount can earn one up to a year in jail for a first offense and from two to 10 years for a second offense. Marijuana sales—of any amount—can earn a sentence of up to life in prison.

The state’s largest cities were the most in support.  In metro Oklahoma City and Tulsa, support for medical marijuana was higher than 75%, and support for decriminalization was at 67% in Tulsa and at 63% in Oklahoma City.

Even Oklahoma’s notoriously conservative Republicans are ready for change. Support for decriminalization came from 53% of Republicans interviewed, lower than the 60% of Democrats and 65% of independents, but still surprising.

“I do hope that the polling results will help legislators feel more comfortable supporting marijuana reform,” said Oklahoma NORML leader Norma Sapp.  “I always encourage people to contact their legislators. I think a statewide lobby day will be called when the need comes.”

Senator Constance Johnston (D-Oklahoma City), who has filed medical marijuana bills for several years now without managing to get a hearing, told the Oklahoma Observer the poll echoed what she had been hearing from constituents.

“I like the results. This is very telling. It confirms what we’re being told across the state,” Johnston said, adding that they could help ease legislators’ worried minds. “The results make you wonder what these elected officials are afraid of,” she said.

The poll of likely voters was conducted between August 28 and September 9, and was commissioned by NORML’s Oklahoma chapter. The margin of error is +/- 4.9%.

Additional poll results, key takeaways, and complete question wording:

Question:  Fifteen states in America have decriminalized the possession of up to once ounce of marijuana for adult possession, meaning they would receive a fine rather than be criminally prosecuted and face possible incarceration.  Do you support or oppose joining these other fifteen states?

  • 57.1% support Oklahoma joining fifteen other states who have decriminalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adult possession, meaning they would receive a find rather than be criminally prosecuted.  34.5% strongly support, while 30.3 strongly oppose.
  • 53.1% of Republicans, 60.3% of Democrats and 64.5% of Independents support joining these fifteen other states, while 70.6% of those identifying themselves as liberal support, 69.5% of moderates and 46.3% of conservatives support this measure.
  • 44.7% of Evangelical Christians support joining these fifteen other states.
  • Tulsa MSA 67.3%, OKC MSA 62.8%, and rest of state 47.9% support joining these fifteen other states.

 

Question:  Oklahoma treat marijuana use as a public health concern, meaning send them to treatment, instead of making it a criminal justice matter?

  • 63.7% of likely voters in Oklahoma believe that Oklahoma should treat marijuana use as a public health concern.
  • 52.1% of those who identify themselves as very conservative agree they should be sent to treatment.
  • 43.9% of those likely voters attending religious services at least one time or more a week chose treatment, and 55.1% of Evangelical Christians chose treatment.

 

Question:  Twenty states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation.  Do you support or oppose Oklahoma joining these other twenty states?

  • 71.2% support joining twenty other states who now have laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation.  47.4% strongly support and 18.3% strongly oppose this measure.
  • 68.0% of Republicans, 74.6% of Democrats and 68.2% of Independents support this measure.
  • 62.8% of those ages 65 and greater support medical marijuana possession for medical purposes with physician’s recommendation.  Age categories younger than 65 range from 69.2% (18-24) to 80.5% (25-34).
  • Support for medicinal marijuana increases in the rest of the state to 66.4% with Tulsa MSA at 75.2% and Oklahoma City MSA at 75.4%.

 

Question:  Do you think laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be determined by the federal government, or left to each individual state government to decide?

  • An overwhelming majority, 81.6% of Oklahoman likely voters agree that laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be determined by the individual state governments, not the federal government.
  • 87.8% of Republicans, 76.3% of Democrats and 76.0% of Independents agree that individual states should be the decision-makers regarding legalization of marijuana.
  • All of the state regions (82.8% Tulsa MSA, 78.6% OKC MSA and 82.8% rest of state) agree that legalization of marijuana should be an individual state decision.

 

About the Poll

SoonerPoll.com conducted the random-sample, scientific survey from August 28 through September 9, using live telephone interviewers. Of the 404 respondents who participated, 110 were contacted by cell phone and 294 by land line (weighted). The combined results have been weighted to adjust for variation in the sample relating to age, sex and political party. 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 SoonerPoll.com and is available here.

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The Oklahoma Lottery, since being proposed in the 1990s, has been highly controversial in the state of Oklahoma.  So, it’s probably no surprise that public opinion regarding the Oklahoma lottery will probably be controversial as well.

What’s interesting is favorability of the lottery has started to change.

SoonerPoll began polling the lottery in 2009 when public opinion was equally divided and, interestingly, the undecided were at its lowest point. Since then, it appears those once unfavorable slowly become undecided in their opinion and favorability has slowly risen. Today, those favorable toward the lottery hold a fragile majority, a first for either side, with unfavorabilty constantly trending lower.

So, the question is why?

David Blatt, Director of the left-leaning Oklahoma Policy Institute and a lottery supporter, says “the survey seems to suggest that the lottery has become more popular, although it’s hard to tell whether this is a momentary spike in support or a sign of an enduring trend.”

One critic of the lottery believes the steady increase of favorability is a function of money and marketing.

“It’s not hard to see why the lottery is popular,” said Brandon Dutcher, Vice President of Policy for the right-leaning Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. “You’ve got this enterprise with a huge marketing budget, plus constant earned media, most of it favorable and often tinged with excitement. The lottery bureaucrats don’t issue press releases about the guy who gambles away the grocery money.”

Since its final passage in 2004 under Democrat Governor Brad Henry, the lottery has continued to under-performed expectations. It has never met the projections pushed by proponents more than a decade ago, and ranks toward the bottom with other lottery states in the amount of revenue generated and per capita spending.

Just last October, however, lottery officials did announce that it has raised more than half a billion dollars for education since the first scratch-off tickets were sold in the state more than seven years ago. But, officials believe one key change could help move the lottery toward meeting those expectations.

Lottery officials have been lobbying that a requirement that 35 percent of its profits go to education has hurt sales.

The theory goes like this: easing the 35 percent requirement would allow the lottery commission to put more money into prize payouts, which would, in turn, generate more sales.  So while the percentage take to education would decrease, the actual dollar amount would increase.

Conservatives and lottery critics, especially, could have a difficult time arguing against this theory, considering they use it themselves in arguing for tax cuts; the concept that lower tax rates generate more tax revenues.

Lottery officials have even pointed to other states as examples where cutting the requirement has generated more revenue for public education.

Regardless of the final decision, the harsh reality is this:  Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have lotteries. Oklahoma’s gross lottery revenue of about $198 million during fiscal year 2011 placed us 10th from the bottom, according to GamblingCompliance. On a per capita basis Oklahoma was third-to-last, ahead of only Montana and North Dakota.

Meanwhile, Oklahomans have slowly come to favor the state’s lottery.

About the Poll

SoonerPoll.com conducted the random-sample, scientific survey from May 22 through June 12, using live telephone interviewers. Of the 402 respondents who participated, 108 were contacted by cell phone and 295 by land line. The combined results have been weighted to adjust for variation in the sample relating to age, sex and political party. 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 SoonerPoll.com and is available here.

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Gov. Mary Fallin may not have any challenger yet announced to run against her next year, but it would appear that whoever may eventually emerge will have a big uphill battle. While this may have been well known anecdotally in political circles, the latest poll results from SoonerPoll.com would now confirm it.

In its latest quarterly poll, Gov. Fallin’s approval rating among likely voters has reached an all-time high, 71%, since SoonerPoll began measuring the governor’s approval in 2011 when she was sworn in.

This high approval rating comes in the wake of the governor’s leadership in helping Oklahoma recover from this year’s season of devastating tornadoes.

“Despite some criticism over school storm shelters, Fallin gets good marks for handling the recent tornadoes in the state,” said Dr. Keith Gaddie (@KeithGaddie), political science professor at the University of Oklahoma.

“She has emergency management experience,” says Gaddie, pointing out that as lieutenant governor, she dealt with the Oklahoma City bombing as well as tornadoes. “She’s good substantively and stylistically.”

Not all of her actions as governor have met with the approval of a majority of likely voters, some critics note, pointing to her decision to turn down additional Medicaid funding under Obamacare, and her signing the expansion of horse slaughter in the state.

Still, the economic trade winds may be at Fallin’s back going in next year’s reelection. Oklahoma’s 5 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in the country for any state with a population of more than 3 million people, adding 54,000 new jobs. She has also restored the state’s savings account, the Rainy Day Fund, from less than $3 in 2011 to more than $530 million.

“Fallin also has a good record with social conservatives,” notes Hastings Wyman of the Southern Political Report. Self-identified conservatives make up slight more than half of the Oklahoma electorate. Earlier this year, Fallin received praise from National Right to Life for signing three anti-abortion measures that passed the legislature, including parental notification before abortions can be performed on a minor.

It remains unseen, however, who will run against the governor next year, if anyone, and how effective he or she will be in bringing down Fallin’s high approval ratings. Plus, the clock is ticking, and every day the governor gets stronger as any would-be competitor now has one less day in raising vital campaign dollars.

Fallin, Oklahoma’s first female governor, has already amassed a campaign war chest that puts her well on her way of matching, if not besting the nearly $4.1 million she raised in her successful 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

“She’s stronger than goat’s milk,” says longtime Oklahoma political analyst Mike McCarville (@McCarvilleRept). “I don’t see a Republican challenger or even whether the Democrats can come up with a sacrificial lamb or not.”

About the Poll

SoonerPoll.com conducted the random-sample, scientific survey from May 22 through June 12, using live telephone interviewers. Of the 402 respondents who participated, 108 were contacted by cell phone and 295 by land line. The combined results have been weighted to adjust for variation in the sample relating to age, sex and political party. 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 SoonerPoll.com and is available here.

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We continue to try and read the tealeaves from the ideological identification chart above and determine what it might mean to Oklahoma’s political future. So, as the chart seems to indicate, has the Republican Revolution in the state run out of steam, or have Democrats stopped the bleeding and ready for a comeback?

Oklahoma’s tsunami of Republican red may have crashed the shores in 2010, when every statewide office became Republican, but the early signs were there in the conservative identification leading up to that election. Like the coastline receding before the big wave, moderate identification retreated and conservatism surged.

Looking back, here’s what the chart also tells us. Soon after President Obama’s election in 2008, Oklahoma voters abandoned the brief thought of being a ‘moderate’ once it was clear the new president wasn’t one. Conservative identification shot to 60% of the electorate and averaged much higher than it ever had, not going below 49% since 2008.  In the months leading up to the historical 2010 election for Oklahoma, conservatism was at an all-time high, since SoonerPoll started recording it in 2004, and showing strength like it hadn’t before.

But, the months leading up to 2012 showed the conservative movement had perhaps slowed, which may also be tied to the loss of enthusiasm for voting Republican in comparison to 2010.  Republican Mitt Romney may have won Oklahoma, but the drop in enthusiasm in Oklahoma was systematically low for Romney voters nationwide, negatively effecting turnout and costing him the election. I opined about this after the presidential primary last year and how the more moderate Romney, if he was the eventual nominee, might be a repeat of the moderate McCain loss in 2008.

But now, the high-flying conservative plane in Oklahoma looks like it has stalled, leaving many to speculate that Republicans have reached a point of diminishing return.  It could be argued the chart presents evidence that Republican control of all statewide offices and both legislative bodies is here to stay, and this is all the level of conservatives Republicans need to remain firmly in control.  Or not?

For some additional insights, we turned to Patrick B. McGuigan, editor of CapitolBeatOK.com and one of the state’s leading authorities on Oklahoma politics.

mcguigan“The Republican ‘brand’ may have peaked,” said McGuigan, “although the party will likely continue to dominate the Legislature and most statewide races for years to come. Major problems facing the leadership include whether or not to deliver on promises to make government smaller and to lower taxes. If they cannot do this, they risk some erosion of their dominant position.”

One thing is for certain: if Democrats continue to embrace the ideology of the far left and abandon its conservative heritage in the state, it may be the minority party for some time to come.

“Democrats retain a plurality of Oklahoma’s registered voters, but any return to statewide strength is dependent upon restoration of the moderate-to-conservative policy approaches that characterized successful Democratic politicians of the past,” said McGuigan.  “There is no guarantee this is possible because of the shift to the Left among the party’s most committed activists.”

Some Democrat political observers believe the state’s changing demography will aid Democrats in future gains: African Americans in Oklahoma are voting at higher levels than ever before 2008, Hispanics are the state’s fastest growing minority, and both are traditional constituencies of the Democratic Party.

While Republican political observers may concede these points, they also point out it would be difficult to make out the Oklahoma Republican Party as the party of ‘old white men,’ noting the majority of women and Native American legislators in Oklahoma are Republicans as well as the House speaker being of African American and Native American decent.

“Still, I’d give the Democrats a shot at grabbing a statewide post,” McGuigan said, “most likely the schools superintendent job, or two.”

Either way, Oklahoma seems to take its own sweet time with political change.  The modern conservative movement, and the alignment with the Republican Party, started back in the early 1970s when Republicans had just 21 seats in the 101-seat State House of Representatives.  To get to the 72 Republicans today, it’s taken them over forty years.

If the Democrats are ever able to regain control, that may take its own sweet time as well.

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Highlights from Bill Shapard’s appearance on the KFAQ (Tulsa), the Pat Campbell Show, the day before the Tulsa Mayoral Election:

Click here to listen:

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“This is a candidate race, not a issue oriented race.  Candidates races are more stable.  People find a candidate that they like and pretty much stick with them.  People can change their mind on state questions or, in this particular case, different types of tax packages.”

 “Well, I think a lot of people live in somewhat of an echo chamber.  I’d like for every listener to think for a minute, who is most of of the people that you are friends with on Facebook or Twitter.  When you go to groups are they mostly groups of Republicans or mostly groups of people of opposite views.  And, most people grow up and live in an environment where they surround themselves with people of alike views.  There is nothing wrong with this, it’s culturally part of the way we develop.”

“What I do is, is I get in and randomly select among a given population a sample and then we ask them questions.  And we were talking to the passionate, but we’re also talking to the impassionate [unpassionate], the people who just get up every day, they go to work, they have their job — yes, they care who their mayor is — but they are not going to get involved in the politics as much as a lot of other people do.”

“I think a lot of Bill Christiansen’s supporters are very passionate people and they surround themselves with other people that are like-minded and very passionate, and that is all that they hear.  What I do as a pollster is I’m talking to also the people who don’t go to all of the Republican meetings and are all friends with all of the same people on Facebook.”

“I’d just want to remind people the sample size does not necessarily have to be high in which to have a higher level of prediction.  As long as there is a probability sample within that given population, a pollster like me can be pretty accurate within a margin of error.”

“In fact, I think her [Kathy Taylor] biggest challenge is going to try and return Tulsa back to the days when she first ran for mayor and before President Obama.  When you take a look at Democrat turnout prior to 2008, it was pretty much the same — half of the electorate turning out was Republican and the other half was Democrat.”

“Under Obama, we had a lot of Democrats that just got really depressed about voting.  They really didn’t find anybody that they liked.  We see this in the 2010 Democrat primary for governor.  A lot of Democrats just looked and said ‘I really don’t care whose going to run against Mary Fallin’.  Some of them were going to vote for Mary Fallin [in the November election] and simply didn’t turn out.  In my scoring system, those people now have lower scores because their predictability of voting has gone down.  We’re now looking at a sample where 51% is going to Republican and  about 42% is going to be Democrat on election day.”

“Her number at 36% is the most unstable number because if she is able to achieve a pre-Obama turnout for Democrats, her number could go, her percentage of the vote could go up substantially.  If not, it could go down. I think her number is the most unstable of the three.”

“I don’t see how that [one candidate winning with 50% of vote] could happen at all. In fact, Bill Christiansen was at 20% in my poll, I think he will outperform that number.”

“I really don’t [care about who wins].  As a media pollster — I’m not a Republican pollster and I’m not a Democrat pollster.  I work for the media, in this particular case for the Tulsa World.  I hang my numbers out there, and my greatest incentive is to be right.  I don’t have an incentive to help one candidate or the other.”

“I would challenge, if they think that I’m not a very good pollster and the campaigns have pollsters and they are so much better, then publicly release your numbers, publicly release as much information as I have about not only my methodology but my sampling technique, and my results.  And put it our there, and let’s see whose going to be the closest come tomorrow.  I just want to be right, that’s my only motivation.”

“I want to say one thing about the Tulsa World.  A lot of people in Tulsa know that the Tulsa World leans to the left, but that is from their editorial department.  Every newspaper basically has a journalism side and an editorial side.  I’ve never really talked at all to the people on the editorial side of the Tulsa World.  The news people I work with are the people most interested in the polling that I produce and they don’t have skin in the game either.  They could really care less who the next mayor is.  They just want to report on it, report it accurately and they want that polling that I produce for them to be accurate.”

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Dear Governor Fallin,

I write to you today to share with you results of our most recent polling regarding legislation to repeal the ban on horse slaughter in Oklahoma.

Given the rather fast pace this legislation has made its way through the legislature, my intent is to make sure that the collective voice of the voting public is heard and taken into consideration on this issue.

As Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, it is NOT my mission, directly or indirectly, to advocate for or against any particular legislation or public policy. While this particular poll was commissioned by two organizations that have taken a position on the legislation, I wrote the survey instrument with the full intent to ask a probability sample of likely voters unbiased questions and present both sides fairly.

I would also like to note that SoonerPoll.com has provided complete disclosure of the poll results, instrumentation, and a Call Disposition Report including rate calculations, some of which exceeds the minimum disclosure requirements of my profession. Our survey methods are also provided with complete transparency with the public on our website.

There has been mention in media reports of another poll conducted by an out-of-state firm with conflicting results. I would like to point out that this organization has not completely provided their results for review, or met even the minimum public disclose standards outlined by the polling industry. The results of this poll, therefore, should NOT be considered until complete disclosure is provided.

It is my hope that you will, in your capacity as governor of our fine state, carefully consider the public’s collective opinion on this legislation as you decide whether to sign this legislation or not.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

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A strong majority (66 percent) of Oklahoma likely voters opposes passage of proposed legislation allowing for the slaughter of horses here in Oklahoma, and of those that oppose, 88 percent strongly oppose the legislation, according to a new poll.

The Oklahoma legislature is currently considering two bills, House Bill 1999 and Senate Bill 375, which would allow for slaughter of horses here in Oklahoma for human consumption in other countries but would maintain a ban on the sale of horsemeat in the state.

A strong majority, 65.1 percent, of respondents in rural counties opposes the legislation, despite claims by the horse slaughter proponents that rural communities support it. Counties within the Tulsa MSA, 69.6 percent, and counties within the Oklahoma City MSA, 64.3 percent, also have high levels of opposition to horse slaughter.

Significant majorities of all political parties also oppose horse slaughter: 72.5 percent of Independents oppose this legislation, followed by 67.6 percent of Democrats and 63.4 percent of Republicans. Another strong majority, 60.5 percent, of conservative respondents, who make up more than half of all likely voters, is opposed to the horse slaughter legislation, as well as 74.7 percent of moderates.

When asked about having a horse slaughter operation in their community, an overwhelming majority, 72.3 percent, of likely voters is opposed, with 91.9 percent of these likely voters in strong opposition. Sixty-eight percent of rural likely voters oppose having a horse slaughter facility in their local community, followed by 74.6 percent of likely voters in the Tulsa metro area and 75.8 percent in the Oklahoma City metro.

A majority of likely voters, 54.1 percent, would be unlikely to vote to re-elect their senator or house representative if he or she voted in favor of this horse slaughter legislation regardless of whether or not it becomes law.

Voters were also asked about particular organizations. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and The Humane Society of the United States, two groups opposed to horse slaughter, received combined favorability (strongly and somewhat favorable) of 69.5 percent and 64.4 percent, respectively, from likely voters. The Oklahoma Farm Bureau, a group advocating for horse slaughter, had combined favorability among 63.4 percent of respondents.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, designed and administered this telephone survey, which was commissioned by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This study was conducted March 16-21, 2013 using live interviewers, with 452 likely voters in Oklahoma selected to participate at random using a dual frame of landlines and cell phones. Respondents in the landline sample were selected by randomly asking for the youngest adult male or female who was at home. In the cell sample, the person who answered the phone, provided that person was an adult 18 years of age or older, was asked the survey questions. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.61 percent. The full Call Dispositions and Rate Calculations were calculated by SoonerPoll.com and is available here.

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What can this graph tell us about how Oklahomans will vote in November?  Maybe not much.  But it can tell us how the Oklahoma political landscape has changed, the impact of President Obama on the state, and that the change may be with us for some time.

The last time we presented this data, we noted the lead up to the last presidential election and how Oklahomans begin to identify themselves as less conservative and more moderate in their political beliefs.  The conservative value of less regulation of the marketplace became the target of blame for the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and Oklahomans were quickly moving away from identifying themselves that way.

Meanwhile, then-candidate Obama presented himself as more of a moderate in the election and, while he still didn’t win a single county in Oklahoma in 2008, it appeared at least half of Oklahomans were willing to give him a chance in the Oval Office with 46% approving of his first 100 day performance.

But it wouldn’t last.  The president pursued a more liberal agenda than most Oklahomans could stomach, and by May 2009, Oklahomans had jumped back to identifying themselves as conservative, as seen in the graph above, including viewing the president as liberal.

The impact on the Oklahoma Democratic Party has been nothing short of devastating, a party once led and dominated by conservatives for decades.  By spring of 2010, findings indicated that the views of the political parties were changing as more and more Oklahomans developed a more favorable view of the Republican party and a slightly more negative one of the Democratic one.

Depressed conservative Oklahoma Democrats showed little interest in voting for either of the Democratic Gubernatorial candidates in 2010, blowing projected turnout models for every pollster in the state.  It would appear they had made up their mind of voting Republican in November well before the primary, and found little reason to vote.  With a huge wave of straight-party Republican voting, conservative Democrats handed complete control of state government over to Republicans that November.

So what about right now?  As seen in the graph above, no less than 50% of Oklahoma likely voters have identified themselves as conservative since the 2008 presidential election.  At the same time, the conservative label of the Oklahoma Democratic Party appears irreparable, as conservative Democrats have sought refuge in the Republican party and more liberal leaders have taken control of the state Democratic party.

Romney’s performance in the state up to now looks like another wide margin, and a loss in the 2nd congressional district race would leave the Democrats with not a single major elected official in the state.  Once, Republican elected officials at the State Capitol could hold conference meetings in the corner booth at the IHOP down the street.  Now, its the Democrats.

But, Republicans should be weary of celebrating their political supremacy over the state should Romney win the presidency.  What course Romney will take is uncertain, but any decision not to pursue a conservative course during his presidency could set conservatives in this state adrift.

One thing is for sure.  Baring some unforeseen event, the state Democratic party is restricting itself to minority party status in the state if it continues to abandon its conservative roots while embracing national liberal leaders like President Obama.  Why?  Because, quite simply, on the conservative end of the spectrum is where the voters are.

A great visualization of political swings since 1952 does hold out some long-term hope for the state’s Democrats.  There have been some large swings in the last 60 years and any political scientist will say that swings will continue in the next sixty.  But, note the rather wide dispersion of all states or how spread out the results have become in just the last 12 years, as if America is slowly dividing into two — one to the left and one to the right.

For now, Oklahoma seems firmly planted on the right.

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President Obama standing in front of oil and gas piping in Cushing, Oklahoma 2012

The simplest way to explain Pres. Barack Obama’s unpopularity in Oklahoma is a left-of-center, Harvard-educated, Chicago-politician doesn’t fit in with the Okie style of politics. But is it Obama or a symptom of a larger disease wiping out a Democrat’s chances of taking Oklahoma’s electoral votes?

Consider this: Obama’s vote percentage in the most recent SoonerPoll was 29%.  In comparison to the Tulsa World’s Oklahoma Poll results over the last two decades, that’s lower than Pres. Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal or Gov. David Walters’ midnight court arraignments over campaign finance charges.  And yet, Pres. Obama has not been involved in a similar scandal or charged with a crime.

It is no longer a secret how much Oklahoma voters disapprove of Obama. Even national political pundits know the Sooner state ranks at the top of the states Obama is least likely to win this November. The latest SoonerPoll results of the president’s popularity show him losing to Republican Mitt Romney by nearly 30 points. Since he became president, Obama has never had more than 34 percent of Oklahomans approving the job he has done in the White House.

The president’s in-state numbers show he doesn’t just have problems with moderate and independent voters, but nearly half of voters in the President’s own Democratic Party are not keen with him. The SoonerPoll survey found only 54 percent of Democrats in the poll said they will vote for Obama. During the state’s primary election in June, Obama barely had more than 50 percent of Oklahoma Democrats’ vote for him.

So the question persists: is it the President or is there something else causing even Oklahoma Democrats to shy away from their leader?

Terry Endsley, who participated in the poll, has been a registered Democrat his entire voting life down in a traditional Democrat strong-hold of McCurtain County. He says the reason he is voting for Romney is not just because of Obama.

“I don’t like the Democratic leadership,” Endsley said. “Obama, (Nancy) Pelosi, (Harry) Reid, I don’t like any of them.”

Endsley said he votes for the person, not the party, but is increasingly finding himself siding with Republicans more than his registered party. The last Democrat he remembers supporting for president was Bill Clinton. That was 16 years ago.

“It’s been decades in the making, but more and more Democrats in Oklahoma have subtlety described their move away from voting for the Democratic candidate as ‘voting for the person and not the party,'” said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com.  “There was a time when Democratic leaders would encourage voters to ‘pull the rooster tail,’ in essence voting straight-party Democrat.  Those days of getting registered Democrats to do it seem to be gone.”

Dr. Jeanette Mendez, head of the Political Science Department at Oklahoma State University, defines it as an identification issue.  “Oklahoma once had strong ties with the Democratic party and the change to voting Republican has occurred in the last few decades,” said Dr. Mendez, “but people have not necessarily changed their party identification. ”

Perhaps the tectonic plates of party identification and registration, that have been slowly moving for decades, have moved enough for us to see a more measurable change.   But, has the convergence of conservatism and the GOP become permanent,and can or will it ever move back?

“Oklahoma is a conservative state, and I think this is intensifying,” said Mendez.  “We see Republicans in Oklahoma gain in the state House and Senate, and I think these gains start to show why Obama has a few points lower support overall than in 2008.”

And then there is Oklahoma’s largest industry, oil and natural gas.  By no means can Obama be considered ‘friendly’ to an industry that surveys have shown many Oklahomans recognize as a major employer of high paying jobs in the state and its impact on the Oklahoma economy.

“The President is more than just hostile to the oil and gas industry,” said Mike Cantrell, Co-Founder of OERB and VP of Governmental Affairs with Continental Resources in Oklahoma City.  “If he could rid the U.S. of all fossil fuels, he would, putting thousands of Oklahomans directly out of a job and thousands even more indirectly out of one.”

Cantrell credits the OERB, Oklahoma Energy Resource Board, as the reason more and more Oklahomans see the importance of oil and gas to the state, noting that just 15 years ago many Oklahomans were simply unaware of the economic impact of the industry on the state.  “Oklahomans are voting today with more information than ever, knowing more of what directly would impact their families and which candidates support or oppose those issues.”

Pat Hall, former State Democratic Party Chairman, believes Obama’s number will improve and that this will surprise a lot of Oklahomans.

“By November 6,  women, African Americans and Latinos especially in urban areas along with moderate Democrats,” said Hall, “will become more educated on the candidates and vote to re-elect President Obama.  But,” Hall concedes, “the seven electoral votes from Oklahoma will be cast for Governor Romney.”

Hall is not alone in his assessment and the numbers may prove him right.  The Hispanic and Latino community is the fastest growing population in Oklahoma as reported from the 2012 census, Romney has had a difficult time appealing to women, and African Americans set a turnout record in 2008 for Obama, which can be underestimated this year in polling turnout projections.

Dr. Mendez went on to note that there is a lot left in the campaign and Oklahoma has quite a few independents.  “These independents can bridge the gap to bring Obama’s numbers closer to what they were in 2008,” said Mendez.  “But based on what is shown here and the  trends in the state elections in 2008 and 2010, Obama will not do better than he did in 2008, and most likely will do worse.”

Turnout and enthusiasm are always critical elements for Election Day.  In 2010, both were on the side of Republicans who gained a complete sweep of every statewide office, as well as adding to its majorities in the State House and Senate.  While it was widely argued that the 2010 election was a referendum on President Obama, he was, nonetheless, not on the ballot and African American voters may now meet or exceed this November the record turnout in 2008.

In nationwide polling so far, enthusiasm however seems to be on the side of Republicans, but there is still a lot of time on clock until Election Day for that to change.

Dr. Richard Johnson, Chair of the Political Science Department at Oklahoma City University, questions whether Oklahomans are more pro-Romney or just anti-Obama.

Oklahoma is among the most conservative states in the country and voting trends favor Republicans generally in Oklahoma,” said Johnson.  “But, the question is, do the results reflect an endorsement of Governor Romney or a repudiation of President Obama?”

Another poll participant put it this way.  Clint Johnson, a Democrat in one of the party’s last remaining comfort zones of Cherokee County, said he is choosing Romney as the lesser of two evils.  “I think we’re screwed either way,” he said.

Bill Clinton was also the last Democratic presidential candidate to get Johnson’s vote. He feels the party has left him.  “The Democratic Party of 10 years ago is not the same Democratic Party today,” Johnson said.

 

Oklahoma Political Experts

 

“Governor Romney will win Oklahoma and I trust the results of the Sooner Poll when it comes to the Presidential preference in 2012 for those Oklahoma ‘likely voters’ over 45 years of age that are white.  I think President Obama will surprise a lot of Oklahomans on election day.  I believe that this excellent poll can only give a snapshot in time of where younger voters, African American voters and Latino voters are today and sadly too few of them are willing to be surveyed.  By November 6th  women, African Americans and Latinos especially in urban areas along with moderate Democrats will become more educated on the candidates and vote to re-elect President Obama.  But, the seven electoral votes from Oklahoma will be cast for Governor Romney.”  – Pat Hall, former State Democratic Party Chairman

 

“I would  have to say that I am not shocked by the polling results.  Oklahoma is among the most conservative states in the country and Governor Romney is much closer to most Oklahomans on issues and ideology than President Obama.  Voting trends favor Republicans generally in Oklahoma and the current president failed to carry a single county in Oklahoma when he ran for his first term in 2008.  The question is, do the results reflect an endorsement of Governor Romney or a repudiation of President Obama?” – Dr. Richard Johnson, Chair for the Department of Political Science at Oklahoma City University

 

“There is an identification issue.  Oklahoma once had strong ties with the Democratic Party and the change to voting Republican has occurred in the last few decades, but people have not necessarily changed their party identification.  Among those identifying themselves as very liberal or somewhat liberal, Obama polls very well.  Another 153 report being moderate and it looks like the moderates are in fact Democrats.  However, combing liberal and moderate still falls short of the total number of people who say they are Democrats.  Based on this, I don’t find it surprising to see Democrats voting for Obama, because it looks like the Democrats might not be traditional Democrats.

 Oklahoma is a conservative state.   Being the only state in the nation to have all counties vote for McCain shows how conservative Oklahoma is.  And I think this is intensifying.  We see Republicans in Oklahoma gain in the state House and Senate, and I think these gains start to show why Obama has a few points lower support overall than in 2008.

Obama polls well among most of the groups people who identify as the Democratic base, in particular those 18-24, African Americans and those with income below $25,000.  If you look at the income distribution in Oklahoma with respect to party, Eastern Oklahoma stands out with higher rates of poverty, and also more Democrats elected to the state House and Senate and Congress compared to the rest of Oklahoma.  Given this, I would expect a certain amount of support for Obama, and much of it in urban areas and Eastern Oklahoma.

There is a lot left in the campaign and Oklahoma has quite a few independents.  These independents can bridge the gap to bring Obama’s numbers closer to what they were in 2008.  But based on what is shown here and the trends in the state elections in 2008 and 2010, Obama will not do better than he did in 2008, and most likely will do worse.” – Dr. Jeanette Mendez, Political Science Department Head at Oklahoma State University

 

“The President is more than just hostile to the oil and gas industry. If he could rid the U.S. of all fossil fuels, he would, putting thousands of Oklahomans directly out of a job and thousands even more indirectly out of one. The President has not shied away from using any and every department of his administration to further regulate the oil and gas industry, pushing production down and prices at the pump up.

The OERB, Oklahoma Energy Resource Board, is the reason more and more Oklahomans see the importance of oil and gas to the state, which has spent nearly two decades educating the public of the economic impact of the industry on the state.  Oklahomans are voting today with more information than ever, knowing more of what directly would impact their families and  their jobs, and which candidates support or oppose those issues.”  — Mike Cantrell, Co-Founder of OERB and VP of Governmental Affairs with Continental Resources


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