Trump leads in state, poll finds, but neither candidate is popular
Donald Trump isn't in any danger of losing Oklahoma, but it isn't because voters here are overly fond of the real estate mogul.
With fewer than 100 days left before the general election, the Republican presidential candidate is holding a 24-point lead in Oklahoma over his Democratic rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to a presidential poll released last week.
But despite Trump's commanding lead, fewer than half of the poll's respondents told pollsters they viewed Trump favorably. Clinton's support is even weaker — a little over a quarter of respondents reported having a favorable view of the former first lady.
“People have a tough time liking either one of them,” said Bill Shapard, founder of the Oklahoma City-based polling firm SoonerPoll.
The firm conducted the survey of likely voters in Oklahoma between July 20 and 25.
Of the 298 voters surveyed, 53 percent told pollsters they planned to vote for Trump, while 28.6 percent said they planned to vote for Clinton. Another 7 percent said they planned to vote for the Libertarian candidate, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and 11.4 percent said they were undecided.
The poll carries a 4.91 percent margin of error. The poll's results were stratified to represent the state's likely voter population.
Of those polled, 47.3 percent said they had a somewhat or very favorable view of Trump, compared with 45.6 percent who said they had a somewhat or very unfavorable view of him. Another 7 percent said they had no opinion.
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Although Trump's support is considerably stronger than Clinton's — 69 percent of those polled said they had an unfavorable view of the former secretary of state — the poll results indicate that voters aren't happy about their choices in November, Shapard said.
“It just shows you that both parties are struggling right now with having a polarizing nominee,” Shapard said.
Louella Rhoades, of Tulsa, was one of five voters who told pollsters she planned to vote for Trump despite having an unfavorable view of him. Rhoades, 72, said it was a vote she would cast “with disgust.”
“I don't know that he's strong in his ability to deal with people,” Rhoades said. “His mouth gets ahead of his thinking.”
Although Rhoades is concerned about how Trump's demeanor would affect his dealings with foreign powers, she said she still planned to vote for him, mostly because she doesn't think Clinton is trustworthy. Mostly, she's upset that neither party has been able to come up with a more likable candidate.
“Is this what we've got?” she said. “This is it?”
Linda Bennett, of Logan County, told pollsters she disliked Trump, but planned to vote for him anyway. But Bennett changed her mind after hearing President Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Although she's no fan of Clinton's, Bennett said she worried about promises Trump has made that he doesn't seem to have thought out — promises like forcing the Mexican federal government to pay for a wall along the southern border.
“I don't know how you do that,” Bennett said.
Although Trump's lead is commanding, it's narrower than the percentage of Oklahomans who voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. The former Massachusetts governor won Oklahoma with 66.77 percent of the vote.
The last time a Republican candidate garnered less than 60 percent of the vote in Oklahoma was in 1996, when Kansas Sen. Bob Dole won the state with 48.3 percent of the vote, besting incumbent President Bill Clinton's 40.4 percent. During that election, a sizable percentage of the state's conservative vote went to third-party candidate Ross Perot.
That same phenomenon could explain in part why Trump's lead among Oklahoma voters isn't higher than it is, said Keith Gaddie, chairman of the University of Oklahoma political science department.
Just as Perot took a portion of the state's conservative vote from Dole in 1996, Johnson likely will carve away a part of the electorate that would otherwise go to Trump, Gaddie said.
But, just as Perot didn't stop Dole from winning the state in 1996, Johnson isn't likely to keep Oklahoma's seven electoral votes from going to Trump in November.
“This is about what you'd expect to see in Oklahoma,” he said.