Many Oklahoma voters will make their pick for governor in 13 days, based in large part on where the candidates stand on education.
An exclusive News 9 'dial test' shows how well and how poorly the candidates are connecting with voters on education issues.
"Drew Edmondson knows how to talk education," said Bill Shapard, founder of SoonerPoll.com, which conducted the dial test.
Dial-testing uses color-coded lines on a graph to show real-time reaction from potential voters to whatever a candidate is saying.
Shapard used a random sampling of likely voters from across the state to watch and react to a recording of the recent "From Now On" debate between Kevin Stitt and Drew Edmondson at Oklahoma City Community College.
The two candidates talked a lot about education.
"We have cut education so much," said Edmondson, expressing his concerns with the current state of education in Oklahoma. Whether it's the substance of the message of the style of his delivery, it evoked positive reactions from Democrats (85 percent approval), Independents (90 percent approval) and even Republicans (70 percent approval).
"Republicans, when listening to Drew Edmondson," Shapard said, "dial-tested very well."
Shapard says his dial-testers responded well to Edmondson throughout the debate, but especially well when the topic was education.
"Drew Edmondson knows how to talk education to independents and to moderate voters," Shapard explained, while Kevin Stitt is still trying to sell it like a business."
And Shapard says, right now, that sort of talk only seems to appeal to Republicans. The dial test offers strong proof:
"Folks, running state government is about running a business," Stitt said in the debate.
As soon as the words came out of his mouth, the line representing Republicans angled up, showing increased approval, while the lines representing Democrats and Independents angled down, indicating greater disapproval.
"Kevin Stitt has approached it, I think, in a very CEO manner," Shapard stated, "and saying 'I want to run education like a business,' quite frankly, falls flat with voters."
Shapard says News 9's dial test help explain why polls show Stitt having trouble attracting cross-over voters, unlike his predecessor eight years ago. He says, in 2010, Mary Fallin had between 20 and 30 percent support from Democrats.
In 2018, Shapard says, Edmondson has the clear cross-over voter advantage. But with Republican registration now well above Democrat registration, he says it will still be a challenge for Edmondson on Election Day.
"He's got to, not only carry as much of the Democrats as possible," Shapard noted, "but he's got to get a little bit of the Republicans, that's just how red this state's become in just the last eight years."
Read all of Bill Shapard's 'Dial Test' stories from the 2018 Oklahoma election:
Dial Test: Republicans, Independents Respond Well To Edmondson's Debate-Closing Remarks
Dial Test: Stitt's CEO-Speak Doesn't Appeal Beyond Republican Base
Dial Test: Voters React To Stitt's Call To Appoint Agency Heads
Dial Test: Edmondson Earns High Marks From Women, Independents On Education Funding
Bill Shapard is CEO of SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s only independent non-partisan polling firm, and the pollster of record for News9 and Newson6. In 2014, Nate Silver’s 538 rated SoonerPoll the best pollster in Oklahoma and among the top ten percent best pollsters in the nation. Bill is also a frequent contributor and on-air political expert for News9 and Newson6.