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.

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

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Gov. Kevin Stitt has the highest approval rating of several statewide-elected officials, according to polling released this month.

According to Oklahoma-based public affairs firm Amber Integrated, nearly 55 percent of Oklahoma voters approve of the way Stitt is handling his job as governor.

Just under 48 percent said the same thing about U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford and Attorney General Mike Hunter, the other officeholders included in the poll.

The Amber Integrated poll was conducted from March 26 to 28 and included a pool of 500 registered voters in Oklahoma.

Stitt also recorded the highest share of voters who “strongly approve” of his job performance at 27 percent. The share of voters who strongly approve of Inhofe, Lankford, and Hunter’s job performance ranged from 21 percent to 23 percent.

Among Republican voters, 70 percent approve of Stitt’s job performance with nearly 39 percent saying they strongly approve. The poll showed 63 percent of Republicans voters say they approve of Inhofe and Lankford’s job performance and 54 percent of Republicans approve of Hunter’s job performance.

The poll asked respondents if they believed Stitt and Lankford should run for reelection next year. The poll showed that 47 percent believe Stitt should run again while 41 percent said he should not seek reelection. For Lankford, the poll found 42 percent believe he should run again while nearly 36 percent say he should not.

Both men had solid support among Republicans, which indicates neither is in imminent danger of losing to a primary opponent. In recent elections, GOP lawmakers have had more to fear from primary opponents than from Democratic opponents in general elections.

Just under 61 percent of Republicans say Stitt should run again while 25 percent say he should not. For Lankford, 57 percent of Republicans want him to run again while just under 22 percent do not.

Two factors tested in the poll may bolster Stitt in next year’s potential reelection effort.

First, the poll found 62 percent of Oklahoma voters believe Oklahoma is on the right track while just 38 percent say the state is on the wrong track. Among Republican voters, nearly 73 percent say the state is on the right track.

That’s in sharp contrast to the trends under Stitt’s predecessor, former Gov. Mary Fallin. Throughout most of 2016 to 2018, the final years of Fallin’s second term, Sooner Survey polling conducted by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates consistently showed that those who believed Oklahoma was on the wrong track far outnumbered those who believed the state was on the right track. During that time period the share saying Oklahoma was on the wrong track ranged from 50 percent to 71 percent, while the right-track number ranged between 16 percent and 36 percent.

In July 2018, polling by Morning Consult found Fallin was then the least popular governor in the country with just 19 percent of registered voters rating her job performance favorably compared to 74 percent who disapproved.

Those low marks came at a time when Fallin was supporting broad tax increases even as the state was recovering from a recession and as state teacher unions were staging a mass walkout.

The fortunes of statewide GOP officeholders may also be boosted by general hostility to national events. Amber Integrated found that President Joe Biden’s approval rating in Oklahoma is underwater with less than 38 percent of Oklahoma voters approving of Biden’s job performance and nearly 53 percent disapproving. The poll found that nearly 45 percent of Oklahoma voters say they strongly disapprove of Biden’s job performance.

(Image: Legislative Service Bureau)

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

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