Candidates for public office are often reminded all politics is local. But one local pollster has an interesting twist on the familiar slogan.
“All politics is local, but national politics is more interesting,” said Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll.com.
His expansion on the creed of successful politicians comes after new polling data shows Oklahomans have a much higher interest in the presidential campaign than the local elections also taking place. According to the new SoonerPoll, nearly 80 percent of those surveyed had an extreme interest in national politics compared to 53 percent extreme interest in local politics.
Shapard said the highly volatile race between Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had a lot to do with the high interest.
“We had a major woman running for president,” Shapard said. “We had a major African-American running for president. The news changed daily.”
From the first presidential contest back in January for Iowa voters, to the last vote cast five weeks ago in Montana, the battle between Obama and Clinton kept the public intrigued. The press ate it up throughout the six-month contest, fueled by the bitterness which crept out during the campaign. With each new primary and caucus, it seemed the momentum of the election turned.
The interest in the national campaign also shows up in Oklahomans’ knowledge of the presidential candidates. More than 75 percent said they were extremely knowledgeable of Clinton, Obama and Republican nominee John McCain. The poll was conducted in May, by which time McCain had virtually wrapped up the nomination.
But Shapard warned these polling questions can give out false impressions.
“When we ask people how knowledgeable (they) are of the candidates, they say ‘extremely knowledgeable.’ But if we ask them who the vice president was, 75 percent could not have told us Dick Cheney.”
However, SoonerPoll senior research analyst Jessica Mikeska has one reason why knowledge is not always necessary to generate voter interest.
“National politics is easier to follow for someone who doesn’t have enough knowledge because it is covered so extensively,” Mikeska said. “Maybe it’s easier for someone who doesn’t follow politics as often to stay interested.”
Oklahoma’s primary for local and state elections is less than two weeks away, and with the presidential nominees picked, local interest may pick up. The key will be removing barriers to get more people to the voting booths. But many of those impediments fall into the hands of the voter to remove.
When non-registered people were asked why they don’t vote, the majority said it was because they moved and haven’t changed their voter registration.
“What we found is most people who are not registered were registered at one time and consider themselves voters,” Shapard said. “But when you move, they get their mail to start coming to that address, but their voter registration is just one of those things.”
Shapard also noted the results show 98 percent plan to vote in November.
“Everyone is really interested, but when it comes to election day it’s never that,” Shapard said. “It’s never as high as what we were told to believe and that’s the reason why polls can be wrong.”
More than 600 Oklahomans were surveyed for the poll, which has a 3 percent margin of error. “Scott Cooper