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Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum leads the pack of Republican primary candidates in Oklahoma, but voters think some candidates are better than others when it comes to certain attributes, according to a recent SoonerPoll study.

Results indicate that a plurality of likely Republican primary voters think Santorum is the best candidate when it comes to honesty and ability to understand the problems facing people like them.  However, pluralities of Republican voters said that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is the strongest leader with the best experience.

Despite believing that other candidates are better suited for the Republican nomination, a plurality of Republican voters said that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the best chance to beat President Barack Obama in the general election.

SoonerPoll CEO, Bill Shapard Jr., presented the results at a Republican primary panel discussion held Tuesday.

Shapard said that as voters begin to coalesce around a particular candidate in a typical election, it is rare to find a different candidate leading in particular attributes.

“When people begin to pick a candidate, they think not only do they have the best chance of winning, they think they are also the strongest leader, they also think that it’s somebody that understands the problems of people like them,” Shapard said.

“That is not the case here in Oklahoma.”

Republican Primary Panel Discussion

On February 28, 2012, SoonerPoll.com released GOP primary poll results and hosted a discussion panel to start a dialogue in the media.  The panel featured guests Keith Gaddie, Sheryl Lovelady, and Karl Ahlgren, as well as SoonerPoll CEO Bill Shapard.

Republican consultant Karl Ahlgren said he thinks the reason Romney is seen as the best candidate to beat Obama is because of the size of his campaign.

“Obviously Romney has the most money the most ability to get his message out and so that is what voters are looking at,” Ahlgren said.  “We may not like everything about him, but we feel like he is the best person that can represent us.”

Sheryl Lovelady, a former Democratic consultant, said that though a candidate’s ability to beat Obama has been an important characteristic for voters thus far, she doesn’t think it’s a sustainable characteristic for the future.

“At the end of the day, voters want to be for something and not just against something,” Lovelady said.

Political Science Professor Keith Gaddie agreed with Lovelady’s assessment and went on to say that he feels there is a race to the bottom in the GOP primary.

“It keeps moving so far to the right, and so far away from those issues that affect everyday voters,” Gaddie said. “It makes it hard for the GOP and the eventual nominee to move back to the center.”

Referring again to the recent results, Shapard pointed out that Romney does better among liberal and moderate Republicans, while Gingrich and Santorum lead among conservatives.

“The voters are really identifying well the ideological perspective of the candidates themselves and it is pretty much aligning that way,” Shapard said.

Download the Republican Primary Panel presentation or the toplines and crosstabs for the survey.

Lovelady echoed Gaddie’s earlier evaluation.

“The longer they run the more conservative they get and the more people in the electorate they disenfranchise,” Lovelady said.  ”It will be very interesting to see if they are so far out there that they can’t appeal then to the middle of the country.”

Other results from the same SoonerPoll study find three Republican primary candidates polling above 50 percent in favorability.

When asked whether they had favorable or unfavorable opinions of the candidates, 70.3 percent of respondents said they had favorable opinions of Rick Santorum, 57.3 percent had favorable opinions of Mitt Romney, and 55.6 percent had favorable opinions of Newt Gingrich.

Ron Paul was the only GOP candidate who had more unfavorable opinions than favorable opinions, with 49.3 percent unfavorable and just 35.7 percent favorable.

Sheryl Lovelady said the results highlight what has been the story of the 2012 Republican primary election from the beginning, “there is no real consensus among Republican voters.”

“We’ve seen consistently over a period of months and months and months that there is not one candidate that’s breaking away from the fray, Oklahoma is really no exception,” Lovelady said.

Keith Gaddie said that the up and down of the candidates is driven by the fact that none of them are satisfactory candidates for the majority of Republican voters.

“Absent some strong candidate who they find persuasive, these voters are falling back on those attributes of themselves that they look for in candidates,” Gaddie said. “In Oklahoma, because we have such a strong socially conservative base these voters are falling back to that core principles candidate, which in the current environment is Rick Santorum.”

Bill Shapard cautioned that though Santorum is the current front-runner in Oklahoma, this election cycle has seen the rise and fall of many GOP primary candidates.

“As a pollster I would only say that that’s where the numbers sit as of this moment and that is what we would probably anticipate would carry forward if the election were today,” Shapard said.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned this poll.  SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific poll Feb. 8 – 16, 2012.  The survey was administered via telephone interview to 300 likely Oklahoma voters who were selected at random.  All respondents who took the survey identified themselves as Republicans and said they planned to vote in the March 6th primary election.   The margin of error is plus or minus 5.66 percentage points.

 

Panelists

Bill Shapard Jr., CEO of SoonerPoll.com, is the state’s leading media pollster, having conducted more publicly-released polls since 2006 in the state of Oklahoma than all other pollsters combined.  Bill is a frequent political commentator and has conducted the Tulsa World’s Oklahoma Poll since 2005.

 

Keith Gaddie, PhD, is a Political Science Professor at the University of Oklahoma and a frequent political commentator for many local, national and international media outlets. Keith is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of fourteen booksKeith and Kelly Damphousse (Sociology) are the newly appointed editors of Social Science Quarterly.

 

Sheryl Lovelady is Director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at the University of Oklahoma. For the past two decades, Lovelady has worked throughout the United States as a political consultant. Today, along with her role at OU, she owns a private communications and public policy firm.

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 Karl Ahlgren, co-owner and general partner of AH Strategies, a Republican political relations firm with offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.  A 28-year veteran of Oklahoma government and politics, Ahlgren has a client list that includes more than 40 current members of the Oklahoma Legislature. Ahlgren served for 2-years as co-secretary of the State Senate during its historic tie.

 

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Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich received the support of one-third of the 400 likely Republican Primary voters polled in a recent SoonerPoll.com study.

With 33.3 percent plurality, Gingrich leads in Oklahoma by more than a two-to-one margin over former Governor Mitt Romney who came in second with 14.3 percent.

“Since Republican primary candidates rarely visit Oklahoma on the campaign trail, it is not uncommon for Oklahoman’s opinions to mirror national polls receiving media attention,” Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com, said.

The SoonerPoll went in the field on November 17, and results from Gallup’s daily poll of the Republican field have revealed Gingrich to be the nationwide front-runner since November 13.

Romney consistently came in second in the Gallup daily poll during the time the SoonerPoll.com study was conducted, though never with less than 21 percent.

“It is not really surprising that the leader and runner up in our poll mirrored the national polls,’ Shapard said.  “But what is surprising is how much lower Romney’s poll numbers are compared to nationwide numbers reported in the media.’

Romney received just 14.3 percent in the SoonerPoll study, despite maintaining numbers in the mid to high twenties nationwide.

Shapard said that since the poll only asked respondents who they would vote for, there is very little data to help explain why Romney’s numbers are lower in the state.

See Complete Data and Analysis

Governor Rick Perry came in third, earning 9.3 percent, followed by Representative Ron Paul who garnered the support of 4.3 percent of respondents.

Nationally, Ron Paul has been polling in third place ahead of Rick Perry, but Shapard said additional data may shed some light on why the results are reversed in the state.

“Perry has had the majority of his success among evangelical Americans, and when we look at the crosstabs we see Perry polling within a single percentage point of Romney among evangelical Oklahoma voters,” Shapard said. “Though we can never be sure, this may account for why Perry is bucking the national trend here in Oklahoma.”

Former business executive Herman Cain was a serious candidate when fielding began on the SoonerPoll study.  Cain suspended his campaign during the fielding process, but his name was read to respondents until the end of the study for consistency.

Cain received support from 9.3 percent of respondents in the study.

Shapard said that since Cain has not officially backed a candidate, it is unclear how his percentage of votes will break in Oklahoma.

“Based on how Gingrich’s rise coincided with Cain’s downfall in the national polls, we would expect many of Cain’s Oklahoma supporters to break for Gingrich,” Shapard said. ”But again, the nature of this type of polling makes it impossible to speak definitively on such matters.”

Three other candidates received less than 4 percent in the study.  Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman finished with 3.5 percent, 1.5 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

SoonerPoll plans to continue polling the race in the coming months as well as the general election that will follow.

“A lot can change in a few short months,” Shapard said. “It will be interesting to see how much opinion changes between now and March 6th.”

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned this poll.  SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific poll Nov. 17-Dec. 16, 2011.   Likely Oklahoma voters who identified themselves as Republicans were selected at random and given the opportunity to participate in the poll by phone or online. Of the 400 respondents who participated, 4 took the survey online and 396 responded via telephone interview. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

 

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By RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is a clear leader for the Republican presidential nomination among members of the Oklahoma GOP, according to a SoonerPoll.com survey released this weekend.

The poll was not commissioned by any political candidate or party and was not paid for by the Tulsa World.

Gingrich was the choice of one-third of the 400 Oklahoma Republicans interviewed by SoonerPoll.com from Nov. 17 to Dec. 16. That was 19 points better than second-place Mitt Romney and 24 points better than Rick Perry and Herman Cain.

Cain suspended his campaign during the survey period.

SoonerPoll.com President Bill Shapard said the Oklahoma results are similar to national polls, except that Romney is running about 10 points lower in Oklahoma.

See Complete Data and Analysis

“I think the results show that the candidates do not campaign here or come to the state often … and so all the voters know of the candidates is what they see or read about them,” Shapard said.

Gallup’s national tracking poll, which updates daily, had Gingrich at 29 percent nationally on Friday, down two points, with Romney at 24 percent and Texas Congressman Ron Paul at 10 percent.

ContinuedClick here to read the entire Tulsa World article

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