Poll: Coronavirus is Ohio’s newest partisan divide

By: - May 13, 2020 12:50 am

A man in a supermarket during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

There is widespread support for the job Gov. Mike DeWine has done in handling COVID-19.

And that’s pretty much where the agreement ends.

Ohio citizens are otherwise divided on a number of subjects related to the coronavirus, and the breakdown falls primarily between party lines. Democrats and Republicans have vastly different views about the federal government’s response to the new coronavirus; about their preferred way of voting this November; and their level of comfort in going out in public once again.

These are the results of an Emerson College/Nexstar Media poll of 725 Ohioans conducted both online and through landline phones between May 8-10. 

Restaurant dining rooms, which have been closed since March, can reopen beginning May 21. Ohioans are divided in whether they would feel comfortable dining out again, provided there are “some spacing precautions.”

Among Republicans polled, 74% say they would be comfortable compared to 30% who would be uncomfortable.

For Democrats, the result is reversed: only 26% say they would be comfortable, compared to 70% who would be uncomfortable. 

Likewise, Republicans are more likely to feel comfortable in returning to the gym or in visiting a beach or park.

The poll found that respondents who live in more rural areas of the state are more likely to feel comfortable than those who live in more populated areas. For example, two-thirds of Southeast Ohioans feel comfortable eating at a restaurant compared to just 40% who live in Columbus. 

Poll respondents were asked about returning to work: would they work under “any circumstances,” or would they return only if safety measures were in place?

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say they would return to work under any circumstances. Democrats were more likely to demand their workplaces enact testing and mask requirements. 

Though most respondents of both parties agree that DeWine has handled COVID-19 well on a state level, there is disagreement about the federal government’s effort to help Ohio.

The poll asked if people felt the federal government has “helped too much,” “helped too little” or “has done enough” in terms of its response in aiding Ohio. 

The majority of Republicans said the government has done enough. The majority of Democrats said the government has helped too little. Of the remaining people, more Republicans than Democrats said the government was helping too much.

The poll also asked about how Ohioans would prefer to vote in the November general election: in person or by mail.

Exactly two-thirds of Republicans said they wanted to vote in person. In contrast, more than 80% of Democrats said they wanted to vote by mail.

This partisan divide among citizens mirrors a similar split within the elected Ohio House of Representatives. When lawmakers returned to the Statehouse last week, all Democratic members wore masks while only some Republican members did.

The split was evident in the voting result of an amended Senate Bill 1. The House passed the bill, which sought to curb the executive power of the Ohio Department of Health director. The bill would put some of the director’s health orders to a vote by a committee of legislators. 

A total of 58 out of 60 Republican legislators voted in favor of the bill. Not a single Democrat voted for it. 

Poll shows Biden and Trump in a statistical tie in Ohio

The poll also asked respondents about the upcoming presidential election: “If the Presidential Election were held today, would you vote for Donald Trump or Joe Biden?”

The result: 46% for Trump, 43% for Biden. That difference of 3% is within the poll’s 3.5-point margin of error, meaning it is a statistical tie. Trump’s approval rating in Ohio is similarly even: 48% approve and 45% disapprove. 

The poll included a relatively even amount of Democratic, Republican and independent voters.

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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.