Poll Finds Disconnect Between Ohio’s Red State Reputation and Residents’ Views
BEREA, Ohio — Voters in Ohio are a lot more centrist and progressive than most political pundits give them credit for being, a new statewide poll has found.
The statewide Ohio Pulse Poll was developed by the Baldwin Wallace University Community Research Institute and conducted by the research firm SurveyUSA.
What they found, broadly, was that when it comes to such issues as abortion rights, same-sex marriage, recreational marijuana and gun control, the majority of voters stray far from the conservative path.
At the same time, most Ohio voters say even the politicians they like only do a fair or poor job actually representing their views.
“Until quite recently, Ohio had a reputation as a bellwether state,” said Dr. Lauren Copeland, BW political science professor and CRI associate director, in a written statement.
“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,” she continued. “With few exceptions, the results show that they are; this is not how a representative democracy is supposed to work.”
Questions in the survey probed public opinion on a range of issues and dissonance in the results surprised the faculty researchers.
Among the findings:
- 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 restrictions: Majorities of all demographic groups, including conservatives and gun owners, support a number of steps often referred to as “common sense” gun restrictions (though that phrase was not used in the poll questions to avoid bias).
A whopping 85% favor expanding background checks for gun purchasers aged 18-21, 79% support raising the minimum age to buy an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21, and 75% approve of “red flag” laws that allow police to temporarily remove guns 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 in public schools, while 57% support teaching middle and high schoolers about sexual orientation.
- Mitigating 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.
- Student loan forgiveness: While many GOP lawmakers in the state were critical of President Joe Biden’s move to erase some federal student loan debt for borrowers, the poll found 64% of Ohio voters say at least some student loan debt should be forgiven.
The poll did reveal some areas where a majority of Ohioans did hold conservative views, including on transgender issues (voters disapprove of medical care for minors to make gender transitions by a 41-point margin and oppose transgender athletes playing on teams that match their identities by 39 points).
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.
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.
Half of the politicians garnered positive net favorability ratings, while the other half were weighed down by higher negatives, with President Joe Biden at the bottom of the highest-to-lowest list:
- Plus 17: Gov. Mike DeWine (R) — 56% favorable, 39% unfavorable.
- Plus 7: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) — 42% favorable, 35% unfavorable.
- Plus 2: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R) — 38% favorable, 36% unfavorable.
- Plus 2: U.S. Senate candidate and 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 and candidate for governor Nan Whaley (D) — 28% favorable, 39% unfavorable.
- Minus 12: Venture Capitalist and U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance (R) — 35% favorable, 47% unfavorable.
- Minus 20: President Joe Biden (D) — 39% favorable, 59% unfavorable.
The Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse Poll of 856 registered voters was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3, 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, Louisiana. Respondents were weighted to U.S. census targets for gender, age, race, education and homeownership.
The margin of error was plus or minus 4.2%.