Oklahoma governor race: Six things the polls show between Kevin Stitt and Joy Hofmeister

It's election season, which means it's polling season. Oklahoma is about six weeks away from the November general election, and we are starting to see an increase in polling when it comes to the race for governor, which includes four candidates.

Polls aren't perfect, but they do provide a glimpse at what voters are thinking, especially when you start to combine multiple polls. You can start to see trends, what specific voter groups are thinking, and get a better sense of what issues the candidates might focus on in the final weeks of the campaign.

Here are six things the polls are telling us about the race for governor.

1. The race is tightening

A SoonerPoll survey earlier this month showed a 1-point lead for Gov. Kevin Stitt over Joy Hofmeister. The poll grabbed headlines, but it was contrary to what other polls over the last few months had shown.

But on Monday, a poll from Amber Integrated showed Stitt with just a three-point lead. In fact, three of the four most recent polls that the news site FiveThirtyEight considers credible have shown Hofmeister within single digits of Stitt.

Stitt is likely still in the lead, but multiple polls in recent weeks indicate the race is close.

2. Gender splits evident in multiple polls

In both the SoonerPoll and Amber Integrated polls, Hofmeister leads with female voters, while Stitt has most of the support from men.

Much has been made of the female vote this year across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court's overturn of abortion rights. New voter registration among women has surged in the months since the court's decision, and Oklahoma had the fifth-highest growth rate of female voters in the nation, according to The New York Times.

More:Confronted by a rape survivor, Stitt says Oklahoma can amend abortion ban if it went too far

3. Urban-rural split appears in polling data

Monday's poll showed Hofmeister with a lead in the state's two largest cities (53% in Oklahoma City and 57% in Tusla), but Stitt was leading with all other likely voters (55% among voters outside of Oklahoma City and Tulsa).

Four years ago, Stitt won by 12 percentage points statewide, largely because of a base of support in rural counties where he doubled or sometimes tripled his Democratic challenger's vote total, especially in southeastern and western Oklahoma.

Winning urban counties will be important for Hofmeister, but she also will need to make some gains among rural voters.

More:Stitt’s ‘rural wall’ could be a significant edge this election

4. Libertarian and independent candidates could impact race

Libertarian Natalie Bruno and independent Ervin Yen also will be on the gubernatorial ballot, and while neither is polling anywhere close to Stitt and Hofmeister, they could impact the race, especially if it's a close one.

Combined, Bruno and Yen received 3% of the vote in the latest Amber Integrated poll, while other polls have shown a slightly higher share. For Libertarians, at least a 2.5% vote share is necessary to retain ballot access.

More:Natalie Bruno tops the ballot for Oklahoma Libertarians, who see a chance for growth

I Voted stickers are seen Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, inside the Oklahoma County Election Board during early voting in Oklahoma City.
I Voted stickers are seen Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, inside the Oklahoma County Election Board during early voting in Oklahoma City.

5. Divide over what issues are most important

Nearly half of all Republican voters say inflation is the top issue facing Oklahoma, according to this month's SoonerPoll survey. For Democrats, the top issue is education.

That divide is playing out in what each candidate is talking most about. Stitt has consistently complained that President Joe Biden is driving up inflation, while his office is pushing for relief policies, including a reduction in the grocery sales tax.

Hofmeister, the current state superintendent, is talking a lot about education, especially in opposition to a plan by Stitt to use state tax dollars to fund private school tuition.

More:Joy Hofmeister, seizing on voucher plan, says Kevin Stitt would ‘kill’ rural schools

6. If the race remains close, campaign ads could start to turn negative

For the most part, the commercials each campaign has aired have been relatively positive — focused on their candidate with not much name calling.

But if the race remains close, we could start to see more mudslinging. We have hints of what attacks could be used, as Hofmeister has consistently accused Stitt of being "corrupt," while Stitt has tried to link Hofmeister with Biden, who is unpopular in Oklahoma. The top issues for voters also mean the candidates could play to their strengths. Will Stitt claim Hofmeister would drive up inflation with Biden-like policies? Will Hofmeister claim Stitt is keeping Oklahoma schools in the bottom 10?

An increase in the frequency and intensity of ads in the coming weeks would indicate that the campaigns believe the polls do show a competitive race.

More:Gov. Kevin Stitt drops new statewide ad, says he 'was right about COVID-19'

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Stitt vs Hofmeister: 6 things polls show in the Oklahoma governor race