In this episode of Capitol Insider, Sooner Poll’s Bill Shapard joins KGOU’s Dick Pryor and eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley to assess the Republican gubernatorial runoff and other races. Shapard also shares his thoughts on large numbers of undecided voters in the electorate and how people are waiting longer and longer to make decisions about candidates.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and elections. I'm Dick Prior with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Our guest is Bill Shepard, founder of Shepard Research and Sooner Poll. Bill, welcome.
Bill Shapard: Thanks for having me.
Pryor: Good to have you here.
Shawn Ashley: Bill, the primary runoff is August 28th. Based on your polling, how is the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination shaping up right now?
Shapard: Well, when we first polled it right after the primary we found that both Kevin Stitt and Mick Cornett were literally statistically tied, which is the first time in my 18-year career that we've found that. When we looked deeper into it, though, we found some interesting information. One, we think that rural voters are going to be the really main deciders, and we've been saying this sooner poll for some time. If you think about the Republican Party over the last 20 years their greatest growth in registration has been in rural areas. Mick Cornett did an extremely good job as any former Oklahoma City mayor to win some rural areas surrounding Oklahoma City, but where he is not doing well is in the rural areas that have never heard of him. And so when we look at those poll results we see that Kevin Stitt is polling about 11 points better than Mick Cornett. And so we look at this, and say basically advantage Kevin Stitt right now, because the rural folks are going to decide this election. And that's where he's doing the best.
Pryor: Is that because of his funding advantage?
Shapard: Money, of course, plays a large role, but I think also, too, Kevin Stitt is the outsider in this race, or at least that's the mantra that he wants to be told. We find in polling that Oklahoma Republicans favor an outsider two to one, which is a huge advantage for somebody who has never been in politics before. And at the same time there is a little built-in stigmatism. Most people think in the state that Oklahoma City runs everything anyway, so why would we want someone who runs Oklahoma City to run the state? And, of course, that matches the rivalry that we see between Oklahoma City and Tulsa anyway.
Ashley: Another hot race is the Republican runoff for attorney general. You have the incumbent, Mike Hunter, in the lead, but it appears that race is very fluid. What do we see happening there?
Shapard: You know, the... Mike Hunter, when we first started polling back in April, he was in the single digits. And so that's not where an incumbent wants to be. It's hard to say that he was a real incumbent because he was appointed. He hasn't been on the statewide ballot in 20 years--that's a lifetime in politics. And so really Mike Hunter had to start from zero, even though he was the incumbent. As that race developed we saw that I think Gentner Drummond went negative really quick, and, as you know, the race got nasty. We saw the same thing happen the last time in the AG's race. And the third candidate benefitted from that, because people are turned off by negative campaigning. It typically does not work in a multi-candidate field. I will tell you a statistic, by the way, which is that incumbents in runoffs only win 57 percent of the time. That's still a majority. That's still good enough in most races, but not where you want to be typically as an incumbent.
Pryor: Speaking of incumbents, where does the race for the Republican nomination for state superintendent stand, with Joy Hofmeister being the incumbent in that race?
Shapard: Right. Joy is surprisingly doing very well. We have her at 43 percent, compared to Linda Murphy at 30 percent. She has a real strong following in the state. Also at the same time she's school superintendent, and we had a teacher strike...Probably not the best conditions for being an incumbent. But she seems to be doing well and leading by 13 points, with 27 percent undecided. But Linda Murphy could still pull it out. Again, keep in mind that the undecideds typically break for challengers when an incumbent is in a runoff.
Ashley: Well let's talk about those undecideds for a moment. It seems like we went into the primary with a large number of undecided voters. And we've seen some pretty big numbers here. What's happening? Are people waiting until later to decide who they're going to vote for?
Shapard: Yeah I think that we see that in polling as people began to wait later and later in making decisions. So it's a phenomenon that needs to be discovered because candidates are also waiting longer and longer to start spending their money. It's either the chicken or the egg either people are waiting longer because they're not seeing the candidates are learning more about them earlier, or it's...The candidates know that people are making their decision later and they're not waiting, or they're holding their advertising dollars until then.
Pryor: All right, Bill Shapard of Sooner Poll, thanks for joining us.
Shapard: Thanks for having me.
Pryor: That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions e-mail us at email@example.com or contact us on Twitter: @kgounews. You can also find us online at CKGOU.org and eCapitol.net. And you can hear more of this conversation on the Capitol Insider extra podcast and online at KGOU.org. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.
As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.