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Capitol Insider: OU's Allyson Shortle On Why Oklahoma County Went Blue

Dr. Allyson Shortle (left) stands with students and Gov. Mary Fallin on election day, Nov. 6, 2018, when they conducted exit polling in Oklahoma County.
Lauren Capraro
University of Oklahoma Department of Political Science
Dr. Allyson Shortle (left) stands with students and Gov. Mary Fallin on election day, Nov. 6, 2018, when they conducted exit polling in Oklahoma County.

In this episode of Capitol Insider, Dr. Allyson Shortle, a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma, joins KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley to discuss exit polling she conducted on election day in Oklahoma County. Shortle's preliminary results indicate why voters--especially swing voters--in Oklahoma's most populous county chose Democrats this year. 


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and elections. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Our guest is Allyson Shortle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma. Welcome.

Allyson Shortle: Thanks for having me.

Pryor: Good to have you here. Allyson, you were involved in exit polling on general election night in Oklahoma County. What was your methodology?

Shortle: Well, we essentially have 50 students that we unleash on Oklahoma County in 12 different precincts. We have about three white districts, predominantly white, three predominantly black, three predominantly mixed, and then three predominantly Latino. And what we do is we ask people to take this survey, and we have every other person who we ask.

Shawn Ashley: And what have you learned so far from your results?

Shortle: Well, Right now it's highly preliminary. We only have access right now to the data on people who are not straight ticket voters. And what's interesting about that particular population is these are the moderates. These are people who aren't just going to vote Democrat or Republican. They are really up for grabs, essentially, and those voters definitely went for mostly Democrats. They went for a lot of liberal ideas on the night of the election.

Pryor: Do you have an indication...I know it's early in the process, but you have an indication of what was pushing voters to the polls? Oklahoma's turnout was about 60 percent, just under 60 percent, which is very high, especially for a midterm election.

Shortle: I think largely people were coming out to either vote for or against Donald Trump in this election. At my precinct in particular, which is a predominantly black precinct in Oklahoma City, I definitely saw a lot of people come out of the polls and proclaim that they had been waiting a long time to vote against Donald Trump, which is pretty interesting given that, you know, Trump is not on the ballot, right? But there's this sense that everything voters are voting for this day is some sort of referendum on the president. So I think that was a huge mobilizer.

Ashley: Well, even the president himself had said this election is about me and my policies.

Shortle: That's right.

Ashley: So he had given them that reason, I suppose.

Pryor: The 5th Congressional District has been trending Democratic. It was expected that it would go Democratic vote for a Democratic candidate at some point. Kendra Horn did it this year. Was that because of the political landscape or was it more about that specific campaign?

Shortle: Well, it's really unclear at this point. I think everybody was surprised. None of the polls had said that Horn was going to win this election and unseat an incumbent. And this is a very big deal. So is this about the political climate? It very well could be about her mobilization efforts. And I think if you know anything about her campaign she had a lot of young staff who were very thrilled to be a...Champion her as a new candidate and someone who's fresh. If you look at the different campaign websites you'll see a stark difference there in terms of Russell, who is really campaigning on his military service and was campaigning as an incumbent who looked pretty safe. You will see this Twitter feed did not tweet a lot on election night. He was going hard into the economy, his service, and you'll see Kendra Horn has a very youthful looking campaign that was tweeting where to go to the polls, and you could tell her staff was aware of that mobilization was going to be key to getting her elected that night. And I think that's essentially what did it for her.

Pryor: Allyson, this year pointed toward our growing rural urban divide. What do you see happening as Americans and Oklahomans are sorting themselves out?

Shortle: I do see what's happening in Oklahoma reflective of what's happening nationally. People are making politics their identity, which means we do see people in rural areas becoming more Republican and we see people in urban areas becoming more Democratic. And we see also a lot of independent voters who want nothing to do with the partisan bickering that's going on. And that's really defining Oklahoma, as well as the nation as a whole.

Pryor: Allyson Shortle from the University of Oklahoma, thank you for joining us.

Shortle: Thanks for having me.

Pryor: That's Capitol insider. Find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Follow us on Twitter: @kgounews. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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