While there will be winners in Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday Democratic primary, it doesn’t appear Oklahomans — or anyone else — will find out by reading the polls.
The projected front-runners flipped, then flipped again. A day after a Monmouth University poll showed Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic primary race by five points, a SoonerPoll released Tuesday shows Hillary Clinton leading the presidential race by 8 percentage points.
SoonerPoll (Margin of error: 4.3 percent)
• Clinton – 56.3%
• Sanders – 43.7%
Monmouth University Poll (Margin of error: 5.7 percent)
• Sanders – 48%
• Clinton – 43%
Bill Shapard, chief executive officer of SoonerPoll, said the difference between his poll and Monmouth’s is striking.
“In all honesty, one of us is wrong. By the end of tonight, we’ll know whether they’re wrong or I’m wrong,” Shapard said.
Sanders has closed the gap in Oklahoma during the past six months, partially due to concentrated campaign efforts, Shapard said. Clinton has not made the same effort.
However, Shapard doubted Sanders will walk away with a win given that Oklahoma Democrats are rather conservative compared to other states.
“I’m still trying to figure out how a conservative Democrat can show up on Election Day and vote for a 74-year-old white socialist,” Shapard said.
Monmouth officials did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Many polls show Sanders is struggling to win over black Democrats, a group that helped Clinton trounce the Vermont senator in South Carolina’s primary.
Shapard said similar racial demographics within the Democratic Party will likely seal Sanders’ fate in southern states like Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas Tuesday.
Oklahoma is different because its southern Democrats are older and predominantly white.
Shapard said it’s going to be interesting to see which poll did a better job at getting a representative sample of Oklahoma Democrats.
The Monmouth poll randomly dialed 300 people to poll them, both on cellphone and landline. SoonerPoll used an online poll and a randomly dialed automated poll, and conducted a cellphone and landline poll with live questioners.
Shapard said young voters will be underrepresented, men are less likely to pick up the phone, and older voters are more likely to participate in any poll, Shapard said. That means pollsters have to give weights to the participants to make them a better reflection of their demographic bracket.
Putting too much of an emphasis on young voter turnout can skew a poll for Sanders. Not enough emphasis skews in favor of Clinton.
Another interesting factor: Oklahoma Democrats opened their polls to independent registered voters for the first time for this election. Independents may vote for independent candidates or for Democrat candidates. Oklahoma Republicans did not open their primary to independents. Figuring out how independents and undecided voters go can also skew the poll.
SoonerPoll was run from February 23-25 while Monmouth polled from February 25-28.
More recent polling could better reflect undecided voters, but then the results are limited.
Putting too much of a liberal tendency on undecided and independent voters can skew the poll for Bernie, while not enough can skew it for Clinton.
At the end of the day, Shapard said he believes Oklahoma’s young voters will stay home, hurting Sanders. He added that independent and undecided voters will stick to their conservative roots and vote for Clinton.
“That’s the reason they have Sanders by 5 and could be wrong tonight, but heck I may be wrong tonight,” Shapard said.
“It’s just to give us – you and me, and all the pundits – something to talk and write about as we watch history unfold.”