Northern Poll of likely Ohio voters

Examines Issue 1, abortion, and the status of the 2024 Ohio Senate race.

The Institute for Civics and Public Policy (ICAPP) at Ohio Northern University has released the Northern Poll, a web-based poll of 675 likely voters in Ohio taken from July 17-26. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7%.  Dr. Robert Alexander and Dr. John Curiel led the project.

Ohioans closely divided on Issue 1 

On August 8th, Ohioans will be asked to vote on Issue 1 – a ballot measure that would among other things raise the threshold to amend the Ohio Constitution from a simple majority to 60%. The issue will be the only one on the statewide ballot and came about after the legislature passed a resolution to permit this special election after having eliminated August elections earlier this year. The move is widely considered to have occurred in order to make enshrining abortion access in the Ohio Constitution more difficult. 

We find an almost equally split electorate 42-41 supporting and opposing the measure. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Democrats and Republicans are almost equally split on the issue, with 56% of Democrats opposed compared to 53% of Republicans in support. Independents show little preference either for or against the measure. August elections notoriously have low turnout and yet this issue is getting a great deal of attention and voter turnout efforts, with more than 70.6% have paid at least some attention, making the outcome difficult to predict. 

“Issue 1 is the only item on the August statewide ballot and while it is aimed at increasing the thresholds to amend the Ohio Constitution, it is clear that it is mainly about making a constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion access in the Ohio Constitution more difficult.” We find a closely divided electorate, with partisanship explaining much of the divide.” --Robert Alexander. 

pie chart of state issue 1


Just this week, a statewide constitutional amendment relating to abortion and contraception was approved to go before the voters on the November statewide ballot. Our poll shows conflicting results when it comes to abortion. Although a majority of respondents believe that Roe v. Wade should not have been overturned, a plurality (39%) agree that issues relating to abortion should be left to the states. 

A large majority of Ohio likely voters do think abortion should be legal (60%) and 54% say they would support a constitutional amendment to protect reproductive autonomy. Women and men effectively support increased bodily autonomy protections at the same level, 54% and 53% respectively. However, there are steep divides by party, with 68% of Democrats in support, compared to 46% for Independents and 44% for Republicans.

"Our polling suggests just how important the outcome of Issue 1 will be to the success or failure of the November constitutional amendment regarding abortion access in the state. The amendment will likely have a very good chance of passing if it requires a simple majority, but could struggle to meet a 60% threshold.” --Robert Alexander

pie chart of proposed constitutional admendment

Ohio Senate

Ohio has taken a sharp turn toward the GOP in the last few elections. The state supported Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections by 8 points and Democrat Sherrod Brown is viewed as vulnerable. Brown won by close margins in both 2012 and 2018, with a bare majority in 2012 and 54% of the vote in 2018. While we find that he currently holds significant leads in hypothetical matchups against potential opponents, no more than 45% of respondents say they would vote for him at this time. While Brown currently has an advantage, it is one that would likely vanish once a Republican nominee is selected and a campaign is in full swing. Of the Republican challengers, GOP likely voters prefer current Secretary of State Frank LaRose (32%) over State Senator Matt Dolan (18%) and Businessman Bernie Moreno (7%). 

“Current Secretary of State Frank LaRose is an early favorite for the GOP nomination for Ohio Senate and our polling suggests that Sherrod Brown will likely be in for his toughest campaign regardless of who he faces in 2024.” --Robert Alexander

Trump is still king in Ohio

Donald Trump continues to be popular among Buckeye state Republicans. He is the clear choice among GOP voters for their nominee (64%) and would beat Joe Biden by the widest margins among all of his competitors in head-to-head matchups. Our findings reveal Trump has a ten percentage point margin over Biden. Biden is unsurprisingly popular with Democrats at 72% approval, but this compares to 86% disapproval by Republicans. In comparison, Trump has an 83% approval among Republicans, and an 84% disapproval by Democrats.

Surprisingly, GOP respondents chose Ohio native Vivek Ramaswamy as their second choice (12%) and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (9%) as their third choice. In the race to be an alternative to Trump, this is particularly bad news for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose family has roots in Youngstown and has made multiple trips to the Buckeye state. 

Although early, it continues to look like Joe Biden would have an uphill climb in 2024 in Ohio. Despite low name recognition, virtually all GOP candidates are preferred over Biden. Our findings suggest that an insurgent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. candidacy would not be popular among Democrats. In fact, we find that Republicans have a net favorability of RFK Jr. of 21% compared to a neutral favorability rating among Democrats. 

“Donald Trump is by far the clear favorite among GOP voters in the state and it appears that is unlikely to change regardless of his legal troubles.” --R. Alexander

“Trump continues to show great strength in the Buckeye state among GOP voters. It is perhaps most surprising that in spite of a great deal of pressVivek Ramaswamy has overtaken Ron DeSantis as the 2nd choice among likely Republican voters.” --R. Alexander  

Odds and Ends –

Ohioans like Lebron James and Michelle Obama most among the public figures we polled

Lebron James and Michelle Obama turned out to be the most appealing public figures we asked about in the poll with net favorability ratings of 22% and 19%, respectively. Their level of favorability trounces that of all political figures. 

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had the lowest net favorability ratings at -22% and -19%, respectively. Senator Sherrod Brown (+15) and Governor Mike DeWine (+13) had the highest net favorability ratings among all elected officials we asked about. Ohio Senator, JD Vance holds a -7% net favorability rating. 

Among Republican hopefuls for the GOP nomination, Donald Trump’s net favorability was at -1%, Ron DeSantis was at -11%, Mike Pence was at -16%, and Vivek Ramaswamy was at +12%--with a majority of respondents (55%) not expressing any opinion of him. 

Respondents collectively hold negative views toward Democrats in Congress (-6%), Republicans in Congress (-1%) and Democrats in the Ohio legislature (-1%). The United States Supreme Court (+5%), Republicans in the Ohio legislature (+3%), and the Ohio Supreme Court (+13%) are viewed favorably by our respondents. 

“Ohioans collectively hold few elected officials in high esteem, with Sherrod Brown and Mike Dewine being exceptions. This is good news for Brown as he will be in for a difficult re-election campaign.” --Robert Alexander

“It would be unsurprising if King James was not recruited to run for public office upon his retirement as he remains a popular figure in his home state. Whether he would have any interest in doing so is another question altogether.” --Robert Alexander

Ohioans are unhappy with the economy

Although the economy continues to show positive signs, most Ohioans believe the country is on the wrong track and that the economy has gotten worse over the past year. Approximately 80% of respondents believe the nation is on the wrong track, with inflation reported as the most common issue at the top of their mind at 31%. Splitting the results by party, we see that even a majority of Democrats likewise believe the country is on the wrong track at 62%, compared to 93% for Republicans. However, Democrats seem mostly concerned about abortion at a plurality of 27%. In comparison, 41% of Republicans report inflation as their primary concern. 

Respondents in a bipartisan manner likewise report their own situation has gotten worse over the past year. A plurality of 42% of Democrats report their own economic situation has gotten worse, and 69% of Republicans report the same. These results suggest that Ohioans believe they are facing difficult times and express concern about their own lives and that of the nation. 

“Ohio respondents seem to be in a Carter-style “malaise,” with most people not thrilled about the direction of their own lives, the state, and the nation. When voters are asked whether they are better off now than they were four years ago come 2024, it’s not clear what they’ll say. While it’s well established that partisans always say things are worse when their party is not in power, that even Democrats express dissatisfaction is very telling. In turn, should Biden and other candidates for office say “it could be worse,” is not exactly a winning message when everyone feels like we’re on the worst timeline. --John Curiel