Toledo-area voter has strong opinions, those play a role in circle of friends

Paulette Gunn. Photo by Jim Carney.

It doesn’t matter to Paulette Gunn who her friends are voting for; it matters why they are voting for whom they choose.

“When there’s an actual choice, a very clear-cut choice, and you are choosing someone of a party that is more or less demonized morally, then I guess I would have to just kind of reassess my level of friendship,” Gunn said.

While she and her friends don’t spend a lot of time talking about politics, she is willing to offer advice and thoughts if someone comes to her with questions or concerns. For the most part, Gunn feels they all feel the same way about things.

“I think, in my life, my friendships with these people are much more important than what’s going on in the country,” Gunn said. “And they are entitled, this is America, we’re free. They can have whatever opinions they would like to have. And I’ll have my opinion, and my opinion is strong, and I have some friends that have some very strong opinions that are contrary to mine. It’s just that when we get together, we have other more interesting things we want to talk about.”

For Gunn, the most important issue is abortion. If one of her friends were to support Planned Parenthood, or advocate for federal funding for Planned Parenthood, she would have to reconsider being their friend.

“I think that would cross a line for me, be something of a moral issue that is just so important to me, I don’t think I could sustain a friendship,” Gunn said. “I wouldn’t have any hatred for that person, I wouldn’t bomb their house or anything like that, but I would have to pull away because that would say to me that they are of a different culture, a culture that I just cannot accept. And therefore, how can you have a friendship?”

Gina Butkovich was among seven journalists who participated with Ohioans in October in Your Voice Ohio online dialogues to gain understanding of concerns people have in the 2020 election.  She is a reporter in the Collaborative News Lab at Kent State University and managing editor of KentWIred. She can be emailed at  [email protected]

About this project

This is one in a series of stories on issues Ohioans say are most important in this election year. More than 50 news outlets are collaborating in the project under the umbrella of Your Voice Ohio, the nation’s largest sustained, statewide news media collaborative. In five years, Your Voice Ohio has brought more than 100 journalists together with more than 1,300 Ohioans for discussions on addiction, the economy and elections. Your Voice Ohio is managed and coordinated by the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic engagement organization. The project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and Facebook. The Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes designs and facilitates the dialogues and digital forums. Retired Akron Beacon Journal managing editor Doug Oplinger directs the media work and can be reached at [email protected].

Five Ohios

For the Your Voice Ohio 2020 Election listening project, the state’s 88 counties were divided into five regions identified by John Green, emeritus director of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron, as having political and demographic similarities.

How participants were selected

Six people were recruited to participate with three journalists in each regional dialogue designed and facilitated by Kyle Bozentko and Sarah Atwood from the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes, a St. Paul-based non-partisan, non-profit research organization.

There was an attempt to make each dialogue demographically representative, though that was problematic in some regions, particularly in the Southeast where there were broadband challenges. Overall, the dialogues were representative of Ohio, based on Census data obtained by former Akron Beacon Journal data reporter David Knox.

A pool of about 1,000 volunteers was created through invitations published by Ohio news outlets and from advertisements on social media. To encourage a diverse group of volunteers, $125 was offered to those who answered basic demographic questions, participated in a test call, and then completed the two-hour online dialogue.

For the conversations, participants were granted anonymity with the understanding that what they said could be used in news stories without their names. They were asked afterward if they were willing to be quoted by name and participate in a follow-up conversation with a reporter. Most agreed.

Participating journalists were recruited from the more than 50 Your Voice Ohio news outlets. One reporter attended all five sessions and wrote the central narrative, a regional reporter in each helped identify themes and nuances. A third is guiding the Your Voice Ohio journalism and has attended all sessions since 2016.

Finding help with your ballot

There are organizations that attempt to provide fair representations of candidates and issues so that you can cast an informed ballot. 

Below are some of those resources:

  • Ballotpedia is a national organization that compiles information about federal and state candidates and some local races and issues The Ohio page is the place to begin.
  • Public radio stations in Ohio, led by WKSU FM 89.7, and with the help of Eye on Ohio and Your Voice Ohio, attempted to ask federal and state legislative candidates questions on your behalf. The questions were formulated after asking Ohioans in a statewide poll to name their most important concerns, followed by dialogues to gain better understanding of those issues. Unfortunately, candidates have been slow to respond. Those who have answered the questions can be found at this site, and new answers are added as they arrive. Disappointed that your candidate isn’t represented? Tell them that you’d like answers to questions that come from the more than 50 Your Voice Ohio news outlets that are attempting to represent your concerns.
  • As a part of its Civics Essential series, Issue Media Group news outlets in Ohio provided this primer on voting for judges. In the story are links to organizations offering appraisals of candidates for state and local judges. Outlets in the Issue Media Group are Soapbox Cincinnati, Freshwater Cleveland and The Hub Springfield.
  • Also as a part of the Civics Essential series, Issue Media Group news outlets in Ohio provided a guide to casting an informed vote on local issues. This story contains links that may be helpful.

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