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New BW 'Ohio Pulse Poll' finds disconnect between 'red state' label, voter views

Is Ohio's growing reputation as a "red state" a red herring? Baldwin Wallace University's latest statewide public opinion poll, designed with student collaboration, finds a misalignment between politician and voter views on many hot-button issues.

"I voted" sticker, ballot and American flag

A new Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse Poll shows voter views on many divisive issues, such as abortion rights, same-sex marriage, recreational marijuana and gun control, are more progressive than conservative.

At the same time, most Ohio voters say even the politicians they like only do a fair or poor job representing their views.

Representative democracy?

The statewide Ohio Pulse Poll was developed by the Baldwin Wallace University Community Research Institute and administered to 856 registered voters in Ohio.

Dr. Lauren Copeland, BW political science professor and CRI associate director, notes, "Recent policy changes on hot-button issues such as guns and abortion rights made us wonder whether Columbus was out of step with public opinion. If so, this is not how a representative democracy is supposed to work."

Eye-opening results

Dr. Lauren Copeland reviews results of the BW Community Research Institute's second fall Ohio Pulse Poll with a political science class that helped to review and test the survey instrument prior to it going into the field.

With survey design input and testing by students in two of Copeland's BW political science classes, questions probed public opinion on a range of issues.

The resulting dissonance in voter opinion compared to public policy surprised both the faculty researchers and their students.

Abortion

59% of voters say they would amend Ohio's constitution to make access to abortion a fundamental right.

Recreational marijuana

58% believe recreational use of marijuana should be legalized.

Same-sex marriage

60% say Congress should pass a law to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the U.S.

Gun control

Majorities of all demographic groups, including conservatives and gun owners, support additional restrictions on guns. A whopping 85% favor expanding background checks for 18-21-year-old gun purchasers, 79% support raising the minimum age to buy an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 and three-quarters approve of "red flag" laws that allow police to temporarily remove firearms from owners deemed to pose a danger.

Teaching racism and sexual orientation

Three-quarters of Ohioans surveyed support teaching both the history and impact of racism to public school students, while 57% support teaching middle and high schoolers about sexual orientation.

Climate change

Two out of three Ohioans believe global climate change is caused, at least in part, by human activity. A majority of respondents support steps to mitigate climate change impact, such as planting more trees, restricting carbon emissions and setting tougher fuel efficiency standards for automobiles.

Analyzing the disconnect

Stefanie Laudolff ’23 (left), a psychology major from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin and Chris Chang ‘23 (right), a political science major from Westlake, Ohio helped to develop the questions and analyze results

"On issue after issue, we see a disconnect between many positions Ohio voters hold and the views and policy proposals of the candidates and lawmakers they elect," said Chris Chang '23, a political science major from Westlake, Ohio, who helped to develop the questions. "In theory, you'd think the voters would elect representatives who generally align with and act on their shared values."

"These are all areas where Republican policy-makers are out of step with a majority of voters in Ohio," observed Stefanie Laudolff '23, a psychology major from Wisconsin who also helped with question design.

"There was a lot of criticism of President Biden's student loan relief that was amplified on social media and media coverage this fall," Laudolff continues. "So, we were surprised to find that 64% of Ohio voters say at least some student loan debt should be forgiven."

Trans rights and prayer in schools

The poll did reveal some areas where a majority of Ohioans hold conservative views, including transgender issues (voters disapprove of medical care for minors to make gender transitions by a 41% margin and oppose transgender athletes playing on teams that match their identities by 39%).

Majorities also agree that both students and coaches should be permitted to lead prayer on school grounds, although parents are less supportive than non-parents.

Politician Net Favorability

While the poll did not sample voter preference in the midterm elections, questions about the favorability of Ohio and national politicians delivered a mixed bag that was not aligned with party ID or ideology.

Half of the politicians garnered positive "net favorability" ratings; the other half was weighed down by higher negatives, with President Joe Biden at the bottom of the highest to lowest list:

Plus 17: Governor Mike DeWine (R)

56% favorable, 39% unfavorable

Plus 2: U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R)

38% favorable, 36% unfavorable

Plus 2: U.S. Senate candidate/U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D)

41% favorable, 39% unfavorable

Minus 5: Former President Donald Trump (R)

46% favorable, 51% unfavorable

Minus 11: Former Dayton Mayor/candidate for Governor Nan Whaley (D)

28% favorable, 39% unfavorable

Minus 12: Venture Capitalist/U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance (R)

35% favorable, 47% unfavorable

Minus 20: President Joe Biden (D)

39% favorable, 59% unfavorable

Full Survey and Methodology

The Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse Poll of 856 registered voters was conducted between 09/30/2022 and 10/03/2022.

SurveyUSA administered the survey instrument online to a representative cross-section of self-identified registered voters in Ohio who were selected at random by Lucid Holdings LLC of New Orleans. Respondents were weighted to U.S. Census targets for gender, age, race, education and homeownership.

The margin of error is +-4.2%.

Access the full survey data report here.

Dr. Lauren Copeland reviews results of the BW Community Research Institute's second fall Ohio Pulse Poll with student

Ohio Pulse Poll In the News

See select media coverage of this Ohio Pulse Poll:

One of eight articles on cleveland.com: Are Ohioans as conservative as the Republican supermajority state legislature?

In Crain's Cleveland Business: Poll finds Ohio's 'red state' label not consistent with public opinion on many issues

In Ohio Capital Journal: New poll finds Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage at top of voters minds going into November election

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