July 21, 2023
Bill Shapard

Today, Oklahoma Republicans Dominate Party Registration, One-in-Three was a Former Democrat

Looking at Oklahoma today, it is hard to believe there was a time that Republicans were a minority in Oklahoma. In 1960, there were just nine Republican members of the State House. Today, the Republicans have a supermajority of 81 members. In 1962, there wasn't a single Republican elected to statewide office, but today not a single statewide office has a Democrat.

Our polling has had to subsequently evolve. When we first started polling the state in 2004, Republicans made up just 32 percent of our probability samples. In our latest poll, Republicans were a whooping 59 percent.

According to our latest poll, 36.7 percent of registered Republicans report being a registered Democrat at some point in their past. As Republicans reach amazing registration numbers in the state, it couldn't be possible without voters changing to the Republican Party.

So, who are these former Democrats-now-Republicans?

They certainly do not like Biden as only 5.1 percent said they had a favorable opinion of him. Nearly 80 percent had a favorable opinion of Trump. They like their new party, rating the Oklahoma Republican Party at 83.4 percent favorability and only 3.9 percent for their former party, the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

They are proud Americans; in fact they were 2.4 points more likely to say they were proud to be Americans than those who have only been registered Republican during their lifetime. They were also nearly nine points more likely to say they were better off financially than their parents than lifelong Republicans, which might suggest that those achieving higher standards of living are more attracted to the message of the Republican Party.

When describing their political ideology, 46.2 percent of these former Democrats describe themselves as "very conservative." This compares to 49.5 percent of Republicans who report only ever being registered Republican. Results are similar for those identifying as somewhat conservative and as moderate in comparison to Republicans who have never been registered as a Democrat. It would appear that the migration was purely an ideological one.

Just 1.5 percent of current Democrats today describe themselves as "very conservative."

This may signal that the conservative Democrat that once existed in Oklahoma may now be permanently extinct. Brad Henry, Oklahoma's last Democratic governor, described himself as a conservative and in January 2007 had an amazing favorability rating of 83 percent, a level that could not have been achieved without the support of both Democrats and Republicans. It is hard to imagine this was just 16 years ago and happened so quickly.

We last noted a decrease in Democrats voting in 2017 which is critical to understanding the shifts because, when voters begin to consider changing their party registration, they first may pause voting and show disinterest in voting in their current party's primary. This was also witnessed in 2010 when a large number of Democrats didn't show to vote in the primary, disputing the outcome of the election, and causing the pre-election polls to become unstable. It is important to note here that conservative Democrats had become extremely unhappy with the first two years of Obama's term, resulting in Republicans winning every statewide office for the first time in state history.

Another interesting result is that 62.1 percent of those registered Republicans, who were once Democrats, are women.

When looking at Oklahoma's five congressional seats, the largest percentage of change occurred in the more rural 2nd Congressional District (27.3 percent) and 22.3 percent were in the more urban 1st District.

More than one-in-three had some college (35.9 percent) with another 23.6 percent having just a college degree.

Don't forget, Obama was good for the Republican Party. During his presidency, Democrats lost a net 948 state legislative seats nationwide, the largest loss of Democratic seats during any presidency since at least 1921. Republicans also gained control of 29 legislative bodies in 19 states, with trifectas of both houses and the governor's chair in ten states.

It could be happening again under Biden. Just recently, several elected Democrat officials in Georgia, New York, and Louisiana have changed their affiliation from Democrat to Republican. In Oklahoma, the largest number of party switchers since the first of this year have been those who were former Democrats and are now Republican, according to the Oklahoma Election Board. The third highest move was Democrats changing to the become Independents.

The presidential election of 2024 is still some time from now, but the forecast isn't looking good for Democrats in the state.

PHOTO: Political Map of the United States before Oklahoma was a state, showing the Party which has a majority in each Congressional District, based on the latest Election Returns in 1880

Bill Shapard
About the Author

Bill Shapard

Bill is the founder of SoonerPoll.com 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.