Poll: Ohio voters support DeWine’s COVID-19 response, are split on Trump

By: - March 30, 2020 12:50 am

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The vast majority of Ohio voters support their state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic but are more evenly split on President Donald Trump’s handling of the health crisis, a recent poll shows. 

Voters in Ohio and three other states were asked between March 17-25 about their opinions of COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential race. Baldwin Wallace University conducted the “Great Lakes Poll” of voters in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with help from Oakland University and Ohio Northern University. 

Here are some key takeaways of what voters in these swing states think:

Governors get high praise for their handling of COVID-19. Trump? Not so much.

Governors in the four states have bipartisan support for their handling of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio. 

Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and Tony Evers of Wisconsin each received solid support of between 65-70% of their constituents. In Ohio, 80% said they strongly or somewhat approve of DeWine’s work. 

President Donald J. Trump is seen giving remarks Sept. 22, 2019, at the Pratt Industries plant opening in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump does not get as high of marks — he got between 51-58% of support in the four states, polling best in Ohio. 

Voters are fairly split about whether they trust the information Trump gives about the new coronavirus, with between 40-50% in each state saying they don’t trust him “very much” or “at all.” 

There is widespread support for the orders being given by governors in these and other states around the country. Nearly all agree with the closing of K-12 schools, daycare centers, restaurant dining rooms and bars. They nearly all agree that public gatherings should be limited, and most agree that the primary election dates should be pushed back.

Michigan did not postpone its March 10 election; Ohio did by moving to an all-mail balloting system with an April 28 deadline; Pennsylvania postponed its primary to June; and Wisconsin, as of now, is sticking to an April 7 voting date. 

Poll respondents also agreed to several proposals that have since been approved by Congress: giving Americans cash relief and expanding unemployment benefits. 

People are paying close attention to COVID-19, and think America is headed toward treacherous waters.

The poll asked voters how closely they were following the news about the coronavirus. 

Results showed that 83% are following the news “very” or “fairly” closely, with just 17% saying they were following “a little” or “not at all.”

This intake in virus information has led to actual changes in everyday lives. Respondents said they have washed their hands more frequently in recent weeks, are avoiding physical contact and are declining visits from friends and family. Perhaps owing to people being stuck at home, they also noted having spent more time on social media.

Most agreed that, as far as the virus is concerned, the worst is yet to come. 

Despite that, around 1-in-4 people believed that the virus is being “blown out of proportion.” The earliest responses of this poll took place in mid-March; since then, the United States has overtaken China and other countries to become the nation with the most confirmed virus cases. It’s possible the results would be different if the poll was taken today.  

The 2020 General Election is going to be close in these swing states.

Voters in these four states were posed a few 2020 presidential hypotheticals. They were asked to pick between Trump and Joe Biden; Trump and Bernie Sanders; and also Trump versus the “Democratic Party’s candidate,” whoever that may be.

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – FEBRUARY 25: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden smiles as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L) looks on during the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The generic Democratic candidate led by 9 points in Michigan. In the other three states, the results were statistical ties. There remain 10-15% of voters in all four states who remain undecided. 

In a specific Trump vs. Biden match-up, the differential is between 5% in all four states. With Trump vs. Sanders, the president leads by between 4-6% in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin; Sanders leads by a narrow 3% in Michigan. 

Other results of the poll show positive news for both Trump and the Democratic Party heading into the fall …

People like Trump’s job performance more than they like Trump.

Here is the bad news for Trump’s reelection effort: he is not viewed especially well by voters in these four states. He has a negative approval rating in three of the states, and is positive by only 0.4% in Ohio — 46.9% view him favorably here compared to 46.5% who view him unfavorably. 

There is some good news for the president, though. The poll asked a separate, albeit similar-sounding question: do voters approve of Trump’s job as president?

He fared better in all four states in this question compared to the first one, with a positive approval rating in Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

Essentially, people like the job Trump is doing more than they like Trump himself. 

Among GOP voters, Trump remains extraordinarily popular: more than 80% of Republicans in each of the four states approve of him. 

On the Democratic side, Biden had approval percentages in the 70s in all four states and Sanders had percentages in the 60s. They are very popular among voters in their party, but not quite so popular as Trump is with his.

If this winds up being a “turnout election,” that bodes best for Trump. However, the initial “Trump vs. Democrat” question shows there may be a pocket of voters who simply want to defeat Trump, resulting in a further consolidation of support behind the Democratic nominee once the primary contest is over.

Health care remains voters’ top issue

Voters were provided a list of policy issues and they selected the most important issue to them heading into the 2020 election. 

In all four states, the top three was this order: health care, economy and security issues (“terrorism, foreign policy, and border security”). Trailing far behind were voters who felt climate change was the top issue, followed by education, women’s issues and “other.”

Women were more likely to identify health care as their top issue, while men were more likely to pick the economy. 

The poll, being conducted during a unique economic climate amid the effects of the virus-related shutdown, offered an interesting result of how Americans view the economy. Most think the economy is worse now than it was a year ago, and most similarly think the economy will be worse off in a year from now. 

You can view the entire poll results here

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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.