Undecided Ohio voters decisive in presidential election
Illustration by Richard Darbey/The News Outlet
Published on September 19 2012, in The Vindicator(Link)
Over the past several weeks, reporters for The NewsOutlet have been spending time with eight voters from six different Ohio counties. The reporters have been asking the voters about their ideas about the upcoming Presidential election. Who will best serve the economy? Who will be the strongest voice for foreign policy? Who is best suited to direct our nation’s educational system? The reporters will keep talking with these voters in the weeks leading up to the election. Please check back in coming weeks for regular updates about how these voters’ ideas are changing and how their ideas may reflect the thoughts of others in Ohio, a key swing state in the November election.
By DOUG LIVINGSTON
November could be the first time Larry Warren, 68, votes for a Democratic president.
Dan Warner, 30, voted in the Republican primary in Carroll County, but isn’t sure who he will vote for in November.
And Kent State University student Katie DeMay, 21, has finally reached the legal voting age in time for the Nov. 6 election but hasn’t committed to a political party just yet.
These likely Ohio voters make up the handful of people who, according to political experts and polling results, could determine the next president of the United States.
With the eyes of the nation closely watching swing states from Colorado to Florida, GOP nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama battle for Ohio’s 18 Electoral College votes, the second highest amount of any swing state.
With neither candidate gaining in the polls, it’s the undecided voters who may tip the scales in the November general election.
Nearly every election poll has placed Obama or Romney under the 50 percent mark needed to rake in Ohio’s winner-take-all electoral votes, said Paul Sracic, chairman of the department of political science at Youngstown State University.
“The myth in Ohio is that there are a lot of undecided voters,” he said. “That’s not the case.”
The faction is actually quite small, polls indicate.
An August poll from the Columbus Dispatch deadlocks Romney and Obama at 45 percent of the vote for each candidate, but it’s the remaining 10 percent who will “probably” decide the election, Sracic said.
Undecided voters vary in age, income level, gender, race, voting history and a myriad of other demographics. They also split on issues, though most voiced concerns about a do-nothing government stifled by a legislative stalemate and polarized comments.
Many, like 60-year-old Joe Sullivan, are simply put off by the political subterfuge.
“Instead of saying what I’m going to do, it’s what the other guy didn’t do,” Sullivan said about what he sees on TV and reads in newspapers.
Instead of talking about the future of healthcare, the solvency of Social Security, the national debt his grandson will carry or other relevant issues, the candidates talk of tax returns and birth certificates, the 60-year-old self-proclaimed “news junkie” said.
Warren shares the sentiment.
A Republican voter for the past 47 years turned undecided, he reminisces about the moderate presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. Warren, a semi-retired educator and administrator, said the political divide hasn’t been this wide since Ronald Reagan’s two-term presidency in the 1980s.
He voted for Reagan and Eisenhower, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be voting for Romney.
“I’m not sure I’m going to vote Republican in November, to tell you the truth,”
Warren said on a rainy day at a farmer’s market in Poland. “I’m getting a little disenfranchised from my party. And if I would ever leave, I would say I didn’t leave the party, the party left me.”
Others have left behind all interest in the election.
Kathleen Chicoine, 51, usually attends presidential rallies when the campaign buses sweep into town. But the special education teacher refused to drive into Akron from her home in Cuyahoga Falls to see Obama over the summer.
Chicoine embodies an apathy for the political process that many undecided voters voiced.
“They sort of long for somebody who is in the middle. And they maybe long for a time where politics took place between the 30-yard lines,” Sracic said. “That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.”
Neither candidate was heavily favored in this primary, Sracic said. But an 8 to 10 percent margin of undecided voters isn’t historically uncommon.
The tight presidential race puts added emphasis on Ohio’s toss-up voters.
“That’s why these voters carry so much weight,” Sracic said. “It may be only a small percentage … of voters in Ohio who are going to determine where 100 percent of Ohio’s vote goes in November.”
TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, The University of Akron and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron). TheNewsOutlet.org receives support from The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Youngstown State University (CLASS), The Raymond John Wean Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Youngstown Foundation.