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, 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., Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, commissioned this poll. 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.



Bill Shapard Jr., CEO of, 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.


 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.



  1. It’s amazing to me that people could hear Santorum say in the last debate, “I admit that I voted for things against my principles, but look, folks… this is politics. Sometimes you have to give one for the team.” This was in answer to Romney asking him if he actually voted for No Child Left Behind, Planned Parenthood, The Bridge to Nowhere, voted to raise the debt ceiling five times, and endorsed the Bendict Arnold of Republicans, Arlen Specter whose one vote passed the ObamaCare bill. Since that debate, Santorum has tried to force his religious beliefs on women and their use of birth control pills, expressed the opinion that John Kennedy didn’t go far enough when he said his Catholic belief would not enter into his decisions, and reached a new low in politics when he and Michael Moore invited Democrats to ‘vote for Santorum’ in the Republican primary in Michigan .. which they did, taking 7 percentage points away from Mitt Romney, who won the election in Michigan anyway. Then Santorum whined around because Romney, who won the race, was given one more delegate than he did. He whined again when the CPAC voted Romney as most conservative and accused Romney of buying votes. How childish! If Oklahomans are not smart enough to see through Rick Santorum and figure out what kind of man he really is, I will be very much surprised. The Rasmussen National poll this morning has Romney at 40%, Santorum 24%, Gingrich 12% and Paul 12%. I hope Oklahoma doesn’t throw this election away like we did the last time. Romney is the only one running that can beat Obama and Santorums dirty tricks is getting him nowhere.. except in Oklahoma. I know Oklahomans are smarter than to have him pull the wool over their eyes. This is one Okie that’s voting for the winner… Mitt Romney!

    • The mass media and some commentators would like to present Santorum as a candidate whose strength is only in social issues. They deliberately do this in order to have BHO reelected. Santorum is not only the leader in social issues but in national security and foreign policy. Please read the two acts that he authored in 2004: The Iran Freedom Act and the Syrian Accountability Act. Santorum strongly opposes a government intrusion in private sectors. Base on principle, He opposed all bailouts. He condemns the current administration’s infringement on freedom of religion and conscience. The government should not force religious individuals and religious organizations such as catholic schools, charities etc. to provide its employees with contraceptives, morning-after pills (Plan B) and sterilization. This is an infringement on religious freedom and an attack on people of faith.

      Let us take some common factors for all the candidates and
      evaluate them in order to hire one of them as POTUS:

      1. Character and integrity -Santorum wins hands down; No flip-flops in cap & trade, climate change, bailouts, abortion , gay marriage, individual health mandates etc.; Compared to others he has very less or no personal, professional and political issues. He could make Barack Obama and his policies an issue of the general campaign. We cannot afford a candidate who will be an issue in the general campaign.

      2. Humble Beginnings – Santorum wins (lived in public housings – with a coal miner parents’); has less money than Obama and the remaining candidates. There is nothing wrong in having more money. Having less money discourages the left from using class warfare. They cannot say Santorum is part of the 1% who represents the interest of the Wall Street.

      3. Consistency in conservative leadership in sanctity of life & family, consistently supports marriage between a man & a woman, fought for tort reform; fought for welfare reform, Defense of Marriage Act( DOMA), late term abortion and had legislative victories etc.: Santorum has a matchless record in social issues. Romney has started saying he lived having core conservative values. Romney’s father was Rockefeller republican and his mother was pro-choice. He even called himself severely conservative. Is there anyone who could tell us what Romney’s consistent values have been for his life time? Santorum got 75% of the votes by leaders of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Protestants who met early this year in Houston Texas (all candidates sent their surrogates to the two day conference who heard all of them speak for their respective candidates before the votes). He has 88% rating by ACU. He has 98% ratings by NRA while Ron Paul has 50%.

      4. Sound national security and foreign policy: Santorum even won in some of the CNN debates when asked about US foreign policy for Latin America etc. and various issues including issues related to individual mandates and Romney care. No other candidate has an experience in national security & foreign policy like Santorum. Please read online the Iran Freedom & Support Act & the Syrian Accountability act which were authored by Santorum in 2004. Why do we look to a novice (such as Romney and others) in national security and foreign policy when we have already a well experienced candidate (Santorum)? As a person who worked for 8 years as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he knows better about our national security and international interests.

      5. Likability: It is widely believed that Santorum is the most likable candidate with less or almost no personal and professional issues. He is a faithful husband, father of 7 children. He is the best role model for a family.

      6. Economic Policy: Santorum is the only candidate who has a family friendly and manufacturing centered economic policy that helps US to grow our economy and jobs. Through this policy he can win back Reagan democrats, blue collar workers in the swing states. The Wall Street Journal called Santorum’s economic policy bold.
      7. Negative Campaign; Insider or/and Outsider issue: Romney has already spent about $50 Million to attack his fellow republicans. He has continued to distort Santorum’s records. Romney is the worst in negative campaign followed by Ron Paul and Gingrich. Romney requested earmarks for Utah Olympics and for Massachusetts. He accuses Santorum as earmarker, insider and big government spender. ABC News recent video exposed Romney’s attitude about receiving earmarks (government money). Getting earmarks and bringing the bacon home gladly was one of the reasons representatives were sent to Washington DC, according to former Senator from Wyoming, Allen Simpson on CSPAN recentlyt. The debt ceiling while Santorum was in US Senate was very much smaller than what it is now. It is better to say that Romney is the current ultimate insider (most elite and Republican establishment still support Romney) because he is for the status quo. Being an insider gives you a better insight and understanding of the problems in the federal government (the three coequal branches of our government). Santorum left the Senate five years ago and has been in private sector since then. Earmark is less than 1% of the US yearly budget and is legal. Resorting to such insignificant issue and an attack by Romney shows his desperation to simply get a vote at any cost.
      8. Debating skills: Although he does not promote himself as the best debater like Newt, Santorum won some of the CNN debates before the one we saw in Arizona (almost all media outlets agreed to the fact that Santorum won based on substance). There are three presidential debates in the fall. The idea that a candidate will have a Douglas – Lincoln debate type is just an illusion and a stunt to get votes. Nobody can force any one to a debate outside of he officially agreed upon three debates to which he may not agree.
      Rupert Murdoch (Owner of the Fox News) said Santorum has a big idea when compared to others. Rush Limbaugh said he is the one who has not harmed the conservative cause.
      Ron Paul is a libertarian. He ran on Libertarian ticket in 1988. He has not ruled out a possibility of running as a third party candidate in 2012. He has not adequately addressed about his racist newsletters published under his name and for which he was the editor. His isolationist foreign policy and his belief that America is responsible for all the attacks against it including 911 and his objection to America’s entry into WWII, which stopped Nazis and communists world domination won’t be acceptable to the majority of Americans. Romney is unreliable and Newt is unpredictable, according to those who closely know them. Romney is not credible to stand against Obama on Obamacre, bailouts, tax increases (had big net tax increases and fees as Governor), supported No Child Left Behind Program and still supports it (although he accuses Santorum of the same). Newt married three times and changed church three times. Newt was for bailouts, TARP, the bogus man made climate change, cap & trade, individual health mandate, member of the Council On Foreign Relations (globalist) since 1990s. Newt divorced twice due to infidelity.

      Romney and Gingrich often rely more heavily on the solutions of the 1980s and 1990s. But they fail to take into full account changes since then. Critical changes and drastically intensified problems that Reagan and Clinton did not have to deal with include the burgeoning population of Single Moms and their children. Forty percent of these families are below the poverty line, and need government assistance, adding heavily to the drain on our tax funds. The loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs is also now much more serious, due to higher production costs in the U.S. resulting in higher prices for our goods, which therefore are not competitive with lower priced goods produced in China and elsewhere. Vote for Rick Santorum, the Republican candidate who addresses traditional economic problems with the traditional Reagan solutions…but Rick also addresses newly emerged serious problems with innovative, private initiative solutions. Pick Rick, a strong Reagan conservative with innovative solutions for new problems of today and tomorrow. . Shirley Freeman, MS, MSW
      2012-03-04 16:54:38.0

      Romney threw money 6-to-1 at Santorum in an effort to crush his campaign after Rick’s 3-state win Feb. 7th. Yet, even with that money advantage, without the prior votes from the Early Voting/Absentee Ballots, Santorum would have beat Romney handily in his own home state. Greta van Susteren calculated that to have the 10-to-1 money advantage over Obama that Romney would probably need to win, he will have to have a ‘War Chest’ of $3.6 Billion! Following last night’s Money Forum hosted by Mike Huckabee, both Huckabee and Charlie Gasparino enthusiastically discussed how ‘impressive’ Rick Santorum was answering probing questions about the banking crisis and jobs creation. Take another look at Rick Santorum’s courageous, intelligent candidacy: Watch Rick Santorum make his case on NBC’s Meet the Press. Shirley Freeman, MS, MSW
      2012-03-04 16:57:10.0

    • Critics hit Romney job-creation record
      Cite workers that left Massachusetts on Washington Times 02/27/12.
      On Romney’s job creation & unemployment rate reduction, please go to this website. The website states his claims are not true.
      please read the following comment originally posted in on
      sunnyday6 Feb-27 @ 5:53 PM
      Breaking News: Romney Lied During the Last Debate
      This is only an issue because Romney has made it an issue by being pro-choice in MA and then flip flopping by claiming to be pro-life now. According to fact checkers Mitt Romney lied during his last debate. His health care plan did require the Catholic church to pay for free abortions and he did not consult church leaders yet he complains about Obama’s health care plan for the same thing. What else will he lie about?
      He whines about federal spending yet he used 6 million of it to pay for rearranging the lawn chairs for the Olympics and his Confederate buddy Ron Paul spent 398 million a year. Now Paul is in trouble with a campaign donor for double dipping for travel expenses.
      Romney whines about No Child Left Behind yet he supported it in 2006. H…e is such a hypocrite.
      Romney whines about Arlen Specter but he voted for Paul Songas. What a hypocrite.
      Breaking News: Confederate Kook Ron Paul Working for Romney
      Ron Paul claims to like Ronald Reagan yet he has said “Ronald Reagan is a failure” and the “CIA deals drugs.” Not only are his racist newsletters everywhere but now it is out there that his mentors were Confederates who hated Abraham Lincoln for keeping the union together. Now Romney is connected to extremists.
      Profiting from the liquidation of businesses and rearranging the chairs at the Olympics does not qualify you to be president. He may pretend to be Mr. Main Street but we all know he is Mr Wall Street. Vote for Romney in any election? I don’t think so.
      Read more:

  2. Some of the comments I have seen about Santorum in various places are totally fabricated. Compared to all of the remaining candidates, Santorum is the only consistent authentic conservative. Even some of his critics admit that he is authentic. I am surprised to see some conservatives continue to support Romney or/and Newt after observing their poor judgments and persistent unpopularity at the grass root level.
    In politics, likability and less or non-political, personal and professional baggage are an asset. Both Romney & Newt have a lot of known baggage that could easily be used against them in the general election. The establishment (Republican) made a commitment to have Romney as a presidential nominee.
    Romney, Newt, & BHO have a lot of things in common: Individual health mandate; cap & trade; bailouts; TARP. Romney tries to argue that his work in the private sector and as an outsider helps him better than Santorum – who worked and lived in Washington before, to grow our economy. He promotes himself as a candidate who could fix the American economic problem. He may think that the American people may not know that a POTUS cannot & will not create or /and grow jobs. A president could create a healthy environment through a legislative process by the US Congress for a private sector to grow our economy and jobs. Can any one of Romney’s supporters tell the American people all of Romney’s specific achievements that make him electable?
    Whether a candidate is an insider or an outsider is less important than what they did or do in areas of their expertise. How can we support Romney when his records clearly show that Romney care is the basis for Obamacare (1/6 of the US economy)? His statement that “I do not care for the very poor”; Republicans say we do not want Romney. Thomas Sowell said (…His (Romney’s) Millions of dollars parked in a tax shelter in the Cayman Island is red meat for the class warfare democrats”. It is silly on the part of Romney and others to say that the most conservative person in the race (may not be an ideal of all) is the least conservative shows desperation. To know more about Romney’s false claim for a reduction of unemployment to 4.7%, please go to
    It is widely reported that Newt is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) since 1990. CFR stands for a global government at the cost of national independence. In his speech at the center for Strategic & International affairs in July of 1995, I have come across a report that says “He brazenly admitted his disdain for our founding document. According to the report, Newt said “I am for the United Nations”. Gingrich ruined his chance through adulterous affairs and erratic behaviors (according to those who know him closely). Newt is unpredictable and Romney is unreliable. Why still some individuals would like to vote for either Romney or Newt, when the BHO and DNC could easily ruin their candidacy in the general? Why do we give to the left a red meat for class warfare? The so called moderates (liberals) will not win in 2012. If conservatives have not learned from what happened to moderate Bob Dole in 1996 and moderate McCain in 2008, they have no body but themselves to blame. Relatively speaking, Santorum has a better chance of beating BHO by making BHO and his failed policies an issue of the general election campaign. The mass media would like us to believe that either Romney or Newt is electable. Knowing fully their vulnerabilities, they promote either of them as ”electable” in order to carry out their massive and vicious attacks in the general to have BHO re-elected.
    Santorum has a family friendly and manufacturing centered economic policy that could grow our economy and jobs. Not only in social issues is he strong but also in national security & foreign policy better than any one of the remaining candidates. Please read online his Iran freedom & Support Act & the Syrian Accountability Act which he authored in 2004. His humble beginnings (lived in public housing, from a coal miner grandfather) with almost no political baggage’s unlike Romney & Newt & Ron Paul (with his reckless foreign policy and libertarian views, anti-Semitism views and his racist newsletters) make him immune to class warfare.
    Romney is applying for the top job in the government sector. He was a successful business man in the private sector. Santorum is the successful man in the government sector, the sector to which Romney is applying for the top job. In the government sector, Santorum has a better experience than Romney. He has 8 years’ experience in areas related to USA’s national security & foreign affairs as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Romney accuses Santorum’s vote for earmarks (something done legally) while receiving earmarks for Utah Olympic Games and other projects in Massachusetts. Santorum has national security and foreign policy experience unlike Romney. Santorum has legal victories in social issues unlike Romney. Santorum is more believable unlike Romney & Newt and Ron Paul. Whether you agree or disagree with Santorum’s policies, we know where he consistently stands. Can any one of you say the same about the other candidates?
    Santorum won for 4 consecutive terms in a 70% democratic district until 2006, the year in which the republican brand was hated. He won 53 out of 83 counties in Michigan primary and got 15 delegates like Romney, who outspent Santorum more than 40:1 ratio. What a victory in Romney’s home state?
    The Republican Party of IOWA waited for so long to declare him the winnower of The IOWA Caucus and deprived him the momentum he needed to have more victories. In order to assist Romney, the republican party of Michigan changed their rules yesterday and gave one more delegate too Romney. Such scandal is a norm in some third world countries like Iran.
    The negative advertisements made against Santorum by both Romney & Ron Paul could not bring him down unlike Newt.
    Rupert Murdoch (Owner of Fox News) said Santorum is the one with a big idea. The Wall Street Journal said Santorum’s economic policy is the one which is bold.


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