September 12, 2022
Bill Shapard

Democrat Jena Nelson leads Ryan Walters in Statewide School Superintendent Race

Jena Nelson, the Democratic candidate for School Superintendent is currently leading Ryan Walters, the Republican candidate and current Secretary of Public Education, by five points in a baseline poll conducted last week. Nelson is a 6th and 7th grade English teacher at Classen SAS Middle school who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary election in June.

The poll was commissioned by News9 and Newson 6 and conducted among 402 randomly selected likely voters in the state.


While Walters may be trailing by five points in this baseline poll, he still leads in fund-raising and name identification in a Republican majority state, which could potentially change this race in the weeks to come.

[QUESTION] If the upcoming November election for Superintendent of Public Instruction was held TODAY and you were in the voting booth right now and had to make a choice, for whom would you vote?

1. Ryan Walters: 43.1%
2. Jena Nelson: 48.1
3. Don’t Know/Undecided: 8.8

More than 70 percent of Republicans say they are voting for Walters, but 19.6 percent of Republicans reported they support Nelson, indicating that Walters has yet to win the full support of his own party. Meanwhile, 91.2 percent of Democrats are behind their own nominee with only 1.8 percent of Democrats supporting Walters.

Nelson leads in support among those voters under the age of 54 by 16 to 34 points. Walters leads Nelson among 55-64 year-olds 45.3 to 44.6 percent and by ten points among those over the age of 65. Walters, whose party represents more than 57 percent of the state's overall electorate, is struggling to win over voters who are more likely to have children in secondary school.

Among men and women, Nelson leads among women 51 to 36.5 percent, but trails Walters among men 44.6 to 50.9 percent for Walters.

Walters lead heavily among conservatives voters, but loses substantially among Moderates 17 to 73.2 percent. Interestingly, the only other candidate losing by such a wide margin among Moderates is Governor Kevin Stitt who appointed Walters to serve in his cabinet as Education Secretary.

Among those who identify education their most important issue for this election, more than 90 percent say they are voting for Jena Nelson.

With regard to geographic regions of the state, Nelson is besting Walters in the rural congressional district of the 3rd and 4th districts, but also in Oklahoma City's 5th district where Nelson is from. Walters is performing better in the more conservative and more Republican 1st district which takes in the Tulsa metro area, and the more rural 2nd district where Walters is from.

Additional questions were asked in the same poll about which political party and its policies are best for teachers, parents and children. Likely voters believed Democrats were best for teachers by about 10 points, 42.4 to 32.8 percent, but those same poll respondents believed Republicans were best for parents, 44.1 to 31.2 percent for Democrats. By more than 12 points, poll respondents believed Republicans were best for children.

About the Poll, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, asked these questions of Oklahoma likely voters in an exclusive poll for News9 and Newson6 in Tulsa.

The scientific study was conducted from September 2-7, 2022 with 402 likely Oklahoma voters selected at random statewide from a dual-frame of both landline and SoonerPoll's proprietary online panel. The landline sample was collected using IVR (Interactive Voice Response). The sample was weighted by age, party, gender, and congressional district in order to reflect the Oklahoma likely voter population for a general election. The weighting was conducted using a 'layered technique.'

The sample reflects the traditional demographical profile of the Oklahoma likely voter with roughly half of respondents identifying as conservative and nearly a third identifying as Moderate. The study has a Margin of Error (MoE) of ±4.89 percent.

A complete description of the methodology can be found here.

Bill Shapard
About the Author

Bill Shapard

Bill is the founder of and ShapardResearch, a full service market research firm based in Oklahoma City. Bill began his career in polling after working on major campaigns for both Republicans and Democrats in Oklahoma from 1996 until founding SoonerPoll in 2004.