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Governor

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After nearly a year on the job, 70 percent of likely Oklahoma voters approve of the way Governor Mary Fallin is doing her job, a recent SoonerPoll.com study reveals.

Results from the poll indicate that 69.3 percent of respondents approve, 16.2 percent disapprove, and 14.5 percent either do not have an opinion or do not know Mary Fallin.  The study was fielded between November 17 and December 6, 2011.

Although this is the first time SoonerPoll has released the governor’s approval ratings since she took office last January, it is not the first time the question was polled.  Results from two previous studies show that Fallin held a 63.7 percent approval rating in May before dropping to just  58.1 percent in July.

November’s numbers are a dramatic improvement over July numbers, which followed the ending of the legislative session.  The 2011 legislative session marked the first time in state history that a GOP governor presided over a large GOP majority house and senate.

Fallin’s 69.3 percent approval is still slightly less than Former Governor Brad Henry’s final approval rating of 70.8 percent in January of 2011.  Despite his political affiliation and his tendency to take a stand against popular conservative initiatives in the state, Henry enjoyed remarkably high approval rating throughout his terms as governor.

In Fallin’s first year in office she has already had a lower approval rating than Henry, whose approval never slipped below 62.2 percent at any time during the five years SoonerPoll tracked his approval.

Further crosstab analysis reveals that 77.7 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents and 62.4 percent of Democrats all approve of the way the governor is doing her job.  Similarly, a majority of conservative, moderate and liberal respondents approve of the governor.

Before being elected governor in 2010, Fallin served as the congresswoman for Oklahoma’s fifth district.  However, when results are broken down by congressional district, only 69.5 percent of respondents in district 5 approve of the governor, compared to 72.5 percent approval in the district 1 and 72 percent in district 4.

Though Fallin received slightly less support from the congressional district she once represented, she received 72.3 percent approval in the Oklahoma City Metro Surrounding Area (MSA).  By comparison, 68 percent of respondents in the Tulsa MSA and 68.4 percent of respondents in the Rest of State MSA approve of the governor.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned and conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 512 likely voters from Nov. 17 – Dec. 6. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.3 percent.

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Governor Brad Henry will finish his second term as governor with a 70.8 percent approval rating, despite dropping significantly in the midst of a political environment often marred by anti-establishment and anti-Democrat sentiments.

According to SoonerPoll, Henry’s approval rating had been slowly declining in recent years reaching his lowest approval on record of 62.2 percent in October before surging to 70.8 percent following the November election.

“The remarkable thing about Brad Henry is how his approval ratings defy the political environment.” Keith Gaddie, Vice President of SoonerPoll, said. “In the past, many of us attributed this to a conciliatory, low-profile approach to politics.  But this governor has been standing against a variety of conservative political initiatives from the legislature, and his approval has actually gone up since the highly anti-incumbent environment created by the November election.”

A look at how other elected officials are faring in Oklahoma helps to put Henry’s approval into perspective. President Barack Obama, a fellow Democrat, had an approval rating of just 26.1 percent in November while October numbers showed Oklahoma’s US Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, both conservative Republicans, with only 69.6 percent and 64 percent respectively.

By comparison, Henry’s approval has remained high and never fallen below 62.6 percent, a remarkably high all-time low for an elected official who often finds himself on the opposite side of the electorate on the issues.

Many times in the past few years Henry has used his veto powers to strike down bills that were wildly popular among voters. The most recent example occurred in April 2010 when Henry vetoed an abortion bill that was widely supported by Oklahomans.

In a poll conducted by SoonerPoll from May 25 – June 8, 2010, 52.6 percent of Oklahomans supported both parts of the bill vetoed by Henry.  The bill was passed when Henry’s vetoes were overridden the following week by the Oklahoma Senate.

HB 1601 is another of the more recent examples. The bill, which was vetoed in April of 2009, dealt with two issues that Oklahomans expressed strong opinions about.  The bill stated no attorney can deduct any portion of a judgment from a court of law, settlement proceeds of a client, or any monies held in trust for a client for the purpose of donating or contributing funds to the election process.

The bill would also have required state agencies to use the competitive bid process when seeking outside legal counsel when fees and services were expected to be more than $5,000.  A SoonerPoll from March of this year showed that 92.9 percent of Oklahomans were in favor of the political deduction portion of the bill and 62.7 percent of Oklahomans would like to see competitive bid provision implemented.

Governor Brad Henry, who is an attorney by trade, first vetoed the bill, which was overturned by the legislature. The law went into effect last November.

Henry’s veto record is not the only place he finds himself at odds with voters.  A look at the programs Henry has supported throughout his stint as governor reveal areas in which voters may have become disenfranchised.

One such program that has seen a drastic drop in favorability in recent years is the state lottery. Henry has long been an advocate of the state lottery, since its introduction in 2004, because he believes it provides critical funding for classrooms and teacher pay.

Favorabilty of the lottery has dropped from a solid majority of Oklahomans in favor when it was first passed to a minority of Oklahomans in favor in in March of 2009.

In 2009, Henry was again at odds with voters when he accepted all funds allocated to Oklahoma from the national stimulus bill.  In a study conducted in April 2009, SoonerPoll found that 44 percent of Oklahomans said that they think Henry should only accept funds with no strings attached while only 21.1 percent said he should accept all funds.

Many of the results mentioned in this story came from the Oklahoma Poll, which is commissioned by the Tulsa World.

The two most recent scientific surveys were conducted by SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, using live interviewers by telephone of 753 likely voters from Oct. 18 – 23 and 518 likely voters from Nov. 5 – 11. The studies had a margin of error of ± 3.57 percent and ± 4.3 percent respectively.

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The latest SoonerPoll of likely Oklahoma gubernatorial primary voters carries good news for Congresswoman Mary Fallin and Attorney General Drew Edmondson – both are favored to win their party nominations for governor. Fallin held a commanding 53.0%-31.1% lead over district 4 Congressman Tom Cole in the Republican primary sample, while state senator Randy Brogdon trailed. On the Democratic side, Edmondson led Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins 41.9%-28.7%.

Rep. Fallin enjoys especially strong name familiarity and very high positives, especially among core Republican voters. Fallin was highly favored my male and female voters, and had the strongest favorables and is preferred across every voter demographic, inlcuding married and single voters.

Congressman Cole’s name identification is weak among Republicans compared to Rep. Fallin. His favorables are weaker among those core GOP voters who are the most likely to vote. Senator Randy Brogdon enjoyed little familiarity or support among voters. His numbers track closely with early numbers for other state lawmakers in their initial run for statewide office. He has substantial gorund to make up in name familiarity, but also substantial time to do so (filing is 14 months away).

On the Democratic side, Attorney General Edmondson enjoys stronger favorables and higher support, but it is notable that many high-propensity voters are not familiar with any of the aspirants for governor. Edmondson enjoys broader support across the entire state, while Askins familiarity and support are stronger central, southwestern, and western Oklahoma.

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