Oklahoma poll confirms partisan split on COVID-19 pandemic

Chris Casteel
A new poll shows 32% of Oklahoma Republican voters who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 say they don’t plan to get vaccinated, while only 13% of unvaccinated Democrats say that.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Republican Party held its state convention at the new convention center in Oklahoma City, with few attendees at the Saturday morning session wearing masks.

The Oklahoma Democratic Party still plans to hold its state convention virtually in June.

The parties’ different approaches to gathering in person amid the pandemic is illustrated by a new poll that shows Republican voters in Oklahoma are far more likely than Democrats to believe it is already safe to gather in groups of 10 or more. The poll, by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, also shows that Republican voters are more likely to believe the bigger risk from the pandemic now is to the economy rather than to health.

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Pat McFerron, the president of the Oklahoma City company, said, “I was shocked that 36% of the voters in the state do not think gatherings of 10 or more will be safe until at least July 1 and that 15% think it will be at least 2022 before it’s OK.

“Among Republicans, 59% think it’s OK to meet right now. Among Democrats, it’s only 15%.”

Shoppers wear mask while walking at the OKC Outlets mall in Oklahoma City, Okla on Thursday, April 8, 2021.

Partisan splits on coronavirus issues

Aspects of the pandemic have divided people along partisan lines from the beginning, with particular flashpoints around mask mandates and lockdowns. 

“This issue is almost as divisive as all but the most ideological of issues and even starts to approach that of abortion and guns, and shows that a virus and the response to it has become an overtly partisan issue,” McFerron, a longtime GOP consultant and pollster, said in a note accompanying the new Sooner Survey.

The survey was conducted April 12-19 among 500 registered voters in Oklahoma by live agents on mobile phones and landlines and through a text-to-web system. The margin of error was 4.3% at a 95% confidence interval.

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Though the partisan split is seen even in regard to vaccinations, it is not as pronounced as on some other questions, McFerron said, as 58% of the Oklahoma Democratic voters surveyed said they were fully vaccinated, compared with 46% of Republicans.

However, the poll shows 32% of Republicans not vaccinated say they don’t plan to get vaccinated, while only 13% of Democrats say that. 

Quantitative and anecdotal data show some won’t get vaccinated because they don’t trust the vaccine, while some have had COVID-19 and think that gives them immunity and others don’t think the threat is serious enough to merit vaccination, McFerron said.

In an interview, McFerron said there was a real partisan divide over whether the pandemic is under control in Oklahoma.

“Those who are vaccinated are the ones least likely to think it’s in control. It makes sense when you think it through because those who are not being vaccinated are the ones who had the least concern about it to begin with,” he said.

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Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on whether employers should be able to require their workers to be vaccinated, a new poll found.

Oklahoma shifting attitudes since last year's survey

A year ago, in May 2020, 43% of Oklahoma voters told the Sooner Survey that their primary concern in the pandemic was health, while 51% said the top concern was damage to the economy.

“Today it’s 29% health risk, 63% economic damage,” McFerron said, with 76% of Republicans more concerned about the economy, compared with 47% of Democrats.

Republicans and Democrats are also deeply divided on whether employers should be able to require their workers to be vaccinated. 

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According to the poll, 77% of Republicans do not think employers should be able to require employees to be vaccinated, while 54% of Democrats believe employers should be able to require vaccinations.

McFerron noted that pandemic related concerns have caused divisions among Republicans. The poll shows, for instance, that 39% of those people who describe themselves as very conservative say they won’t get vaccinated, compared with 26% of those who describe themselves as somewhat conservative.

Responses to the pandemic may be akin to gun rights at times, McFerron said, in that they could divide the traditional Republican coalition of business interests and conservatives.

“While they tend to agree on regulatory and tax issues, these sort of personal liberty issues can put stress on that coalition,” he said.