What would you ask Trump, Biden? These Northwest Ohio voters have ideas

Jinnifer Trubey. Photo by Jim Carney.

Every time Jinnifer Trubey checks her phone, another news story pops up about President Donald Trump.

“It’s something about Trump, something he tweeted… or how (Nancy) Pelosi wants to impeach him,” Trubey said.

“I don’t mind it because I like to stay in the know, but it seems like every five minutes there is another tweet that Trump is making.”

As the U.S. heads toward Election Day 2020, Ohioans across the state said they felt both swamped and abandoned by the media, uncertain what information they could trust.

There were too many stories about the political fighting, many said, and not nearly enough on what the major candidates planned to do if elected.

Trubey and two other Northwest Ohio residents who participated in a Your Voice Ohio Zoom meeting Oct. 8 said they thought the media was biased and, sometimes, making up stuff.

“It used to be there were very good journalists, good reporters. You knew the facts, then you could make up your mind,” said Paulette Gunn, a 74-year old who lives in the Toledo suburb of Holland. “You didn’t have all this slanting. It’s like the whole world is lying to you.”

Gunn said she gets most of her news from local TV stations and Facebook. If a story interests her, like COVID-19, she said she digs into it on the internet to find out how much of it is true.

“In the beginning (of the pandemic), I was really on board with everything,” Gunn said. 

She wore a mask. She maintained social distance.

“Then I got more and more research done and got on to the page to feel we were being led on… then I became extremely angry,” she said.

Gunn ditched her mask and politely refuses to wear one even now when she shops or visits her family, rejecting scientific evidence about the threat of  COVID-19 — which has already killed more that 5,000 Ohioans — and that masks are necessary to stop the spread of the disease. 

People who live in her 55-and-older community seem to be doing the same, Gunn said. She’s only seen one of about 150 residents there wearing a mask.

“I don’t like being pushed around. I don’t like mandates, I don’t like to be ordered to do what I have to do,” she said.

When asked what they wanted to know about Trump and Biden before the election, Trubey, Gunn and Mikel Grenier, a Bowling Green church receptionist, listed these questions:

—What are Trump and Biden’s positions on federal funding and Planned Parenthood?

—Is it possible for Biden to pay for his health care and education proposals without raising sales or other taxes on people who make less than $400,000 a year?

—If Trump brings the troops home, how will he make sure every soldier has a job that pays enough to support a family? 

—What charities, beyond what is disclosed on tax or government forms, does each candidate support?

Regardless who the next president is, the trio of strangers from Northwest Ohio know what they want to see after the election.

Trubey, who is helping her three young daughters with on-line schooling in Toledo during the pandemic, said she hopes Ohio “opens up a little bit more” to help the economy and to allow her children to get back inside classrooms for better learning and socialization.

Gunn said she wants all pandemic restrictions lifted entirely.

“Little children at home and trying to teach them over the internet is just stupid,” she said.

Grenier, meanwhile, wants state and federal laws that prevent landlords from evicting someone for being LGBTQ.

A few cities and towns in Ohio have local laws protecting LGBTQ housing rights, but there’s nothing in most of the state, Grenier said.

But until any of that happens, they’re each hanging onto hope.

Gunn said she finds it in her faith.

Grenier finds it in church and community.

And Trubey finds it in her children.

“My kids give me hope. They push me to be the best version of me I can be,” she said.

As if on cue, the door behind Trubey opened during the  YVO Zoom meeting and one of her daughters came in, crawled up on her lap and said, “Mama.”

Amanda Garrett is a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal and can be emailed at [email protected].

Want to volunteer for a future dialogue and receive $125 for two hours? Register at the Your Voice Ohio Election 2020 website.

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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Amanda Garrett, Akron Beacon Journal
Amanda has covered news across the state of Ohio for more than 20 years. She specializes in making complex stories easier to understand, often through narrative storytelling. She's covered everything from public corruption and terrorism to spelling bees and Santa Claus. Before landing at The Akron Beacon Journal in 2015, she worked for 14 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, mostly on the projects/enterprise team. Before that, she wrote for smaller dailies in Northeast Ohio, The Cincinnati Post and the Raleigh/Durham News&Observer. Amanda has a special interest in eldercare, having paused her own career for three years to care for her own parents in failing health. She and her husband, the senior editor at The Plain Dealer, share a home with a 90-pound dog, three cats and a never-ending stream of news.