Oklahoma voters' poll shows fluctuations 

It's polling season time in America. Oklahomans as well as U.S. residents nationwide can expect to see a poll a day. One state polling firm has just come out with new numbers on Oklahomans' views of state leaders, the president and the direction of the country.

BUSH'S APPROVAL
SENATE RACE

Oklahoma is firmly a red political state, but that fact doesn't seem to change the mood toward George W. Bush. The president continues to stay at his lowest point " one of the lowest for any American president " when it comes to public approval. SoonerPoll.com recorded Bush getting 42.5 percent job approval from registered Oklahoma voters and 54.5 percent disapproval, while 3 percent have a neutral opinion of him.

"We (previously) found Oklahomans were behind the curve (as far) as disapproving of the president," said SoonerPoll.com CEO Bill Shapard Jr. "It looks like Oklahoma has about caught up."

An average of national polls by Real Clear Politics shows the president with a 29 percent approval mark.

BUSH'S APPROVAL
What is striking about the Oklahoma poll is the number of respondents who said they "strongly" disapprove of Bush. That percentage is higher than the president's overall approval, 44.1 percent to 42.5 percent. Democrats and black voters' views contributed to pulling Bush's numbers down in Oklahoma, according to the poll.

But Shappard warns against using these figures to predict the outcome of this year's presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

"People ask, 'Will that have an impact on this November's elections?'" Shapard said. "This state would probably be the last state to vote for Obama. This state looks at its national leaders as Republicans being the best fit as a national leader."

Bush continues to do well among Oklahoma men, Republicans and rural voters.

The numbers are the exact opposite for Gov. Brad Henry. Oklahomans give the Democrat a 70.5 percent approval rating. What is impressive about Henry's ranking is how he has maintained a high approval throughout most of his gubernatorial tenure.

"We've had him as high as 80 (percent), so he loses the most points," Shapard said, referring to previous polls, "but that is only because he's got such high approval."

State Republican Party chairman Gary Jones said the governor's high marks have more to do with the economy.

"The booming oil business in Oklahoma, along with other businesses, has helped Oklahomans," Jones said. "Henry is the governor and is reaping the benefits in the polls because of that, not necessarily anything he has done."

Henry's polling strength rests with women, Democrats and Independents. In fact, Henry receives more support from registered Independents (89.6 percent) than his own party (87.6 percent).

SENATE RACE
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe faces re-election this year, and his poll numbers seem to indicate a possible opening for an opponent. With 51.6 percent approval, Inhofe has the lowest approval rating among Oklahoma's governor and U.S. senators. He also has the highest disapproval mark of 32.6 percent.

"Some people look at Inhofe (and think) maybe he's vulnerable," Shapard said. "I can tell you he's always been there. He's never really had high numbers but never really had low, either."

The Republican senator has proven a tough man to bring down come election time. He has practically demolished his opponents in three previous Senate races. Known for his rough campaign style, the incumbent is not afraid to use negative campaigning on his opponents.

Inhofe is facing several challengers to his seat this year. Six candidates, including three Republicans and one Independent, have filed against the senator.

Sen. Tom Coburn fares better in the poll with an approval rating of 58.3 percent. His disapproval number is nearly the same as Henry's at 23.9 percent.

"We've always found Coburn to be slightly more favorable than Inhofe," Shapard said. "What's interesting about that is his 'don't know' factor has come down considerably."

Those who responded they didn't know whether they approved or disapproved of Coburn or refused to give a rating for him stood at 17.7 percent.

Jones believes the senators' ratings have little do do with state issues.

"Inhofe and Coburn's numbers tend to reflect more on the national debate and less about what's going on here in Oklahoma," he said. "Notice that both rate (considerably) higher than the right-track "¦ numbers."

The most lopsided survey answers came on the question about the direction of the country, with 68 percent of respondents stating they feel the country is heading in the wrong direction. The answers seem to reflect the mood of Oklahomans' attitudes toward the national economy, which also received low marks. Most respondents said they felt the economy is doing poorly, even though they feel Oklahoma's economy is doing fine in comparison.

"This is the chicken and the egg," Shapard said. "Is this because this is what they read in the newspaper, or is it something other than that?"

The survey, conducted between April 24 and May 15, polled 664 state residents by telephone. The results have a margin of error of 3.8 percent. "Scott Cooper

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