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70% of average people are afraid to talk about politics, Ohio Northern University poll shows

Ohio Northern University's 2022 Northern Poll researched 668 likely Ohio voters' views on key races, issues and attitudes toward the upcoming election on Nov. 8.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Dr. Robert Alexander and his team at The Institute for Civics and Public Policy at Ohio Northern University have studied Ohio voters to get a representation of what the upcoming election's turnout may be.

Alexander, a political science professor, drafted survey questions around key state and national races while they explored voters' attitudes toward certain issues; something he has done since 2019.

Their 2022 Northern Poll surveyed 668 likely voters in Ohio through a web-based system from Oct. 11-15. He said the goal is to get the best representative sample of the current political population.

"We're going to look for a split between democrats and republicans, a certain split between males and females, a geographic split. We ask a number of questions to screen whether or not," he said.

ONU's poll showed Democrat Tim Ryan led Republican J.D. Vance by a small margin (43%-41%) in the race for who will replace Rep. Rob Portman in the U.S. Senate. Respondents seemed to prefer Ohio Governor Mike Dewine, a republican, 2-1 over Nan Whaley, his democratic challenger, too. 

Alexander said with an open seat in the Senate, a lot more money is being spent on campaigns. And Tim Ryan's lead from ONU's research could be because of the larger name recognition Ryan has with voters.

The sample from the poll showed a right-leaning shift, which Alexander said Ohio has been seeing. Republicans were preferred over Democrats for State Supreme Court (49% to 35%) and in Ohio's House (54% to 36%).

He said it's important the survey got a fair sample, as their results have been up to par in the past with only a few small margins of error from who they gather information.

"(If) they're a registered voter, whether they're a likely voter, seeing how much attention they're paying to politics, how interested they are voting in the next election," Alexander said.

In the research, Ohioans were split on some issues like abortion and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot but had more agreements when it came to political environments.

Under ONU's "Toxic Political Environment" category, 70% of average people said they were afraid to talk about politics, 65% of relationships have been strained because of it and 78% believe it is the most toxic they've seen in their lifetime.

Vanessa Shannon, a University of Toledo student who voted early in Lucas County on Thursday, said she is not surprised when asked about the findings.

"I feel like growing up, (people) always say don't talk about politics or religion. So, I feel like a lot of people are just nervous to talk about those things. Everyone has their own opinions," Shannon said.

The poll also showed 77% agreeing this could lead to the U.S. being weakened on the world stage. Retiree and Lucas County voter William O'Connor also voted early Thursday.

"We are having an effect on the world stage with America being so divisive right now, and it doesn't look good when the country is split down the middle so rigorously, so I think the rest of the world looks at us and goes, 'nobody is in charge," O'Connor said.

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