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Trump leads GOP field in Oklahoma days before Super Tuesday

With less than a week before election day, Donald Trump is widening his lead in Oklahoma's Republican primary race, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The real estate mogul is holding an eight-point lead over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, with 29 percent to Rubio's 21 percent, according to the poll. Meanwhile, Rubio has overtaken Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who was in third place, with 20 percent.

"Trump's lead relies on men, national security issue voters and those focused on individual liberties," said pollster Pat McFerron. "Trump performs best among lower-income households, those over 45 and those with a history of rarely voting in Republican primaries, though there is statistical tie among the top three candidates among the most reliable primary voters.”

The poll was conducted by The Oklahoman in conjunction with Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, an Oklahoma City-based polling firm, on Monday and Tuesday. Pollsters contacted 400 Republican likely voters by cellphone and landline. The poll has a margin for error of 4.9 percent.

This week's poll shows Trump's lead over his nearest opponent widening. Trump held just a five-percent lead in a poll conducted two weeks ago by Oklahoma City-based firm SoonerPoll.

In this week's poll, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came in fourth, with 6 percent, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich was fifth, with 5 percent. Another 18 percent told pollsters they remained undecided, and 2 percent said they planned to vote for another candidate.

A shift in preference

It's been a long fall for Carson in the Sooner State. In an October poll of registered Republicans, Carson finished first among a field of 14 candidates with 25 percent of the vote. Trump received 19 percent and neither Rubio or Cruz cracked double digits.

In the latest poll, the largest share of voters — 31 percent — told pollsters they were most concerned about national security issues, such as fighting terrorism and maintaining the strength of the military. Another 29 percent said they were most concerned with economic issues like taxes and jobs.

Although some observers may find it curious that Cruz, a favorite of evangelical Christians, isn't performing better in Oklahoma, McFerron said it shouldn't be a surprise.

About 70 percent of Oklahoma voters consider themselves evangelical Christians, McFerron said, but that group isn't a monolith. Those voters also are concerned with other issues like national security and the economy, he said, and those issues may swing their votes elsewhere.

Trump's supporters

Richard Johnson, chairman of the political science department at Oklahoma City University, said Trump's success increasingly comes from voters who have made up their minds well before the election.

In early primaries, Trump voters often said they had decided on a candidate in the few days before they cast their ballots. But in states with later primaries, voters have the chance to make up their minds well before election day.

That trend is creating a stronger surge for Trump, Johnson said.

Much of Trump's success seems to stem from the fact that he doesn't seem like a traditional candidate, Johnson said. He doesn't offer many specific details about what he plans to do, Johnson said, which can be appealing to voters who have seen candidates promise things they couldn't deliver in the past.

“He speaks to a lot of frustration that people have with their government,” Johnson said.

The poll didn't include results for Democratic candidates. But a poll released last week by national firm Public Policy Polling showed a virtual tie in Oklahoma between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

That poll showed Clinton leading Sanders by a two-point margin, which was inside the poll's 4.2 percent margin of error. The survey showed Clinton polling at 46 percent in Oklahoma, with Sanders at 44 percent and 9 percent still undecided.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Oklahoman Survey is a joint venture with Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates to observe and track important topics in Oklahoma. This information comes from a poll of 400 Republican likely voters in Oklahoma. The survey was conducted Monday and Tuesday. Responses to the survey were gathered through landline and cellphone interviews. The study has a margin of error equal to 4.9 percent at 95% confidence.
(Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.)

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›