BEREA, Ohio – President Donald Trump is narrowly ahead in Ohio in his re-election bid and getting positive marks on coronavirus and the economy in new polling released Thursday. But more decisive is what the poll said about the lifestyle restrictions Gov. Mike DeWine has imposed to combat COVID-19.
Huge majorities of Ohioans support closing K-12 schools (87.7% to 6.7%), limiting public gatherings (86.2% to 7.8%), closing daycare centers (81.5% to 9%), closing restaurants and bars (76.5% to 14.3%), and changing the primary election date (70.6% to 16.1%), the Great Lakes Poll found.
And when it comes to DeWine, a national leader in imposing such restrictions, 79.9% say they approve of the job he is doing during the crisis.
Researchers at Baldwin Wallace University, Ohio Northern University and Oakland University near Detroit polled 3,817 registered voters in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from Friday through Wednesday for the second of their planned four Great Lakes polls this year. The margins of error range from 3.3 percentage points plus or minus in Ohio to 3.9. in Pennsylvania.
Trump leads Ohio
On the political front, the polling showed Trump ahead in Ohio – a state he won in 2016 by 8.1 percentage points. But against an unspecified Democratic challenger, Trump trails in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states he also won in 2016 but by much closer margins.
Asked if the election were held “today,” Trump led the unspecified Democratic candidate in the Buckeye State, 44.6% to 43.1%, with the rest unsure.
Elsewhere, the Democratic candidate’s lead over Trump is 47.4% to 38.2% in Michigan, 44.5% to 44.1% in Pennsylvania and 44.5% to 41.8% in Wisconsin, according to the poll. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio all are within the poll’s margin of error.
Head-to-head, Trump leads former Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio by 4.3 percentage points, and leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 5.4 points.
Somewhat oddly, however, adding an opponent’s name to the mix flipped Pennsylvania in favor of Trump – by 2 points against Biden and 5.5 points against Sanders.
Yet the polling indicates that a big unknown when it comes the general election could be how the coronavirus pandemic unfolds over the next several weeks and months.
Large majorities of Ohioans say they are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on the economy in general (88.6%) and their personal finances (76%). Plus, most are worried that a family member will contract the virus (68.8%), according to the Great Lakes poll.
It broke down this way:
- Concerned for the economy: 62.5% very concerned, 26.1% somewhat concerned, 6% not too concerned, 2.3% not at all concerned and 3.1% unsure.
- Concerned for impact on their own personal finances: 45.6% very concerned, 30.4% somewhat concerned, 14.9% not too concerned, 4.7% not at all concerned and 4.5% unsure.
- Worried that an immediate family might catch COVID-19: 25.4% very worried, 43.4% somewhat worried, 22.1% not too worried, 9.1% not worried at all.
Top voting issues
In each state, those polled said the top single issue they care about in voting for president is health care (ranging from 32.4% to 37.4%, depending on the state), followed by the economy (ranging from 30.2% to 31.8%, depending on the state).
So far, majorities in each of the four states approve of the way Trump has handled the coronavirus crisis and the economy (much stronger so in Ohio) – ranging from 50.5% to 58.1% by state.
“Interestingly, we are seeing President Trump’s job approval ratings improve at the same time that people are worried about the economy,” said Lauren Copeland, associate director of of Baldwin Wallace’s Community Research Institute.
“This may reflect a ‘rally around the flag’ effect that is common during national crises.”
But Trump’s handling of health care issues receives poor grades in all four states – with more disapproving on Trump’s work on this issue than approving in each state.
Only in Ohio was it close (46.7% disapproving to 45.1% approving). In the other states, the disapproval against Trump on health care ranged from margins of 9.8 points to 12.8 points.
Gov. DeWine’s star
DeWine’s approval rating of 79.9% on the coronavirus is especially strong in comparison to governors of the other states polled.
On the same question, 69% of those polled in Michigan approved of the work of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, 69.4% in Pennsylvania approved of Gov. Tom Wolf’s job on the issue, and 67.7% in Wisconsin gave approval to Gov. Tony Evers on coronavirus issues.
Some people were polled before DeWine on Sunday announced his stay-at-home order, which was instituted at 11:59 p.m. Monday. But most of his other actions, including closing schools, prohibiting large gatherings and banning dine-in eating at restaurants, came earlier.
“Although President Trump is seeing some improvement in his favorability ratings in the Great Lakes, his performance pales in comparison to governors in these states,” said Robert Alexander, a political science professor at Ohio Northern.
Other poll questions
The lengthy poll covered a variety of topics. Among the findings for Ohioans:
- 36.1% believe the economy has gotten better in the last year; 41.6% believe it has gotten worse.
- 29.7% expect the economy will get better in the next year; 44.5% expect it to get worse.
- 30.4% believe Biden would do a better job than Trump in handling coronavirus; 35.4% believe Biden would do worse.
- 28.9% believe Sanders would do a better job than Trump in handling coronavirus; 39.1% believe Sanders would do worse.
- 84.3% support the support suspension of the NBA season; 8.9% oppose.
- 81.7% support postponing the start of the Major League Baseball season; 10.3% oppose.
- 79.8% support canceling the NCAA basketball tournament; 12% oppose.
- 75.8% approve of Sen. Mitt Romney’s proposal for every American adult to receive $1,000; 8.6% disapprove.
- 90.8% approve of unemployment benefits for people under self-quarantine because of a doctor’s order; 3% disapprove.
Cleveland.com on Thursday will publish several stories digging deeper into the Great Lakes Poll results. Those stories will appear at this link.
Read related politics and coronavirus coverage