Ray Carter | August 20, 2021
Oklahomans strongly oppose Critical Race Theory in schools
A newly released poll shows Oklahomans strongly oppose the use of Critical Race Theory in children’s classrooms.
In the latest edition of the Sooner Survey, Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates president Pat McFerron revealed that the firm’s recent polling shows 58 percent of Oklahoma registered voters who are familiar with Critical Race Theory oppose it being taught in public schools compared to only 30 percent who support its use in the classroom.
The poll found 82 percent of Oklahoma voters have some level of awareness of Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Broken down along partisan lines, the poll found 79 percent of Republicans who claim awareness of CRT are opposed to it being taught in schools. In contrast, 55 percent of Democrats say they support classroom use of Critical Race Theory, but 31 percent of Democrats oppose its use.
McFerron said the issue represents a challenge for Democratic efforts to win elections in Oklahoma.
“On CRT we see the most intense Democrat primary voters being very supportive of CRT promotion and this puts the candidate who can win the primary at odds with the vast majority of general election voters,” McFerron wrote.
Just 20 percent of Oklahoma voters in rural areas support use of Critical Race Theory in the classroom.
In urban areas, opponents outnumber supporters, but by a much closer margin with 48 percent saying CRT should not be taught compared to 38 percent who favor its use.
While CRT is perceived as a cause broadly embraced by racial minorities, the poll showed the issue is divisive even among those groups in Oklahoma. While 48 percent of Oklahoma voters who identify with a race other than Caucasian are supportive of Critical Race Theory being taught in the classroom, 42 percent oppose it.
Among white voters, 69 percent are opposed.
The Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates poll also included a CRT question previously asked in a national survey conducted by Harvard CAPS / Harris Poll, which includes former Bill Clinton pollster Mark Penn as its co-director. The question asked if kids in elementary school should be taught that America is structurally racist and dominated by white supremacy, two concepts strongly associated with CRT.
In the national poll, 39 percent said those concepts should be taught in classrooms. In Oklahoma, only 19 percent agreed.
“While most political observers would expect Republicans to almost universally decry teaching elementary students that America is structurally racist and dominated by white supremacy, they might be surprised to see that more than half of the state’s Democrats also oppose this practice,” McFerron wrote.
The poll showed 54 percent of Oklahoma Democrats oppose teaching children that America is structurally racist and dominated by white supremacy, while 37 percent supported teaching those concepts.
“Clearly, there are a great number of Democrats who support teaching CRT, but do not support teaching that America is structurally racist,” McFerron wrote. “The real battle for Democrats will be in how CRT is ultimately defined. If CRT is defined as teaching about historical racism and events it is supported by a majority of Democrats. If, however, it is taken to mean teaching about inherent structural issues and white supremacy, we see a much different picture.”
He noted that 61 percent of Oklahoma voters who identify as members of an ethnic or racial minority oppose teaching that America is structurally racist.
During the 2021 legislative session, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a new state law that bans teaching many concepts associated with Critical Race Theory, such as the idea that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”
The Sooner Survey poll of 500 registered voters in Oklahoma was conducted from July 19 to 22, 2021.
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.