These findings are based on the most recent Dayton Daily News/Ohio Newspaper Poll conducted by the
Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati between Oct. 18
and Oct. 23, 2012. A random sample of 1,015 likely voters from throughout the
state was interviewed by landline and cellular telephone. In 95 of 100 cases, the
statewide estimates will be accurate to plus or minus 3.1 percent.
With a little more than a week to go, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are deadlocked in a tie in battleground Ohio, setting up a possible historic election night when all eyes could be on Ohio with the presidency hanging in the balance.
Obama and Romney are tied at 49 percent in a new Dayton Daily News/Ohio News Organization poll. Obama was ahead by 5 points in the same poll published Sept. 16, but a surge among independent voters who think the Republican nominee is the best candidate to fix the economy has lifted Romney even with Obama.
How does that tie get broken in the next nine days?
“In the final days before the election, both campaigns will focus on turning out their bases, appealing to independents and attracting the few undecided voters that remain,” said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research, which conducted the poll for Ohio’s eight largest newspapers.
“Absent any more twists and turns, a remarkable presidential campaign may end with the campaign that executes the best ‘ground game,’ narrowly delivering Ohio for the next president of the United States.”
The Buckeye State, the nation’s top presidential bellwether since 1900, is always important in a presidential election. But this year may be giving Ohio voters an attention-surplus disorder, with more than 70 visits by presidential candidates or their running mates, unprecedented ad spending, and reporters from around the world fanning the state. Last week, a New York Times statistical analysis called Ohio more important than the other 49 states combined.
In the new poll, Obama wins support for his foreign policy and for pushing the auto loan package for GM and Chrysler. He also benefits somewhat from damage to Romney from his secretly recorded remarks about the “47 percent” of Americans he said are dependant on the government.
But the former Massachusetts governor scored with his performance in the debates, according to the poll. And on the crucial question of who would do the best job handling the economy, Romney prevails by 6 percentage points among all voters — and 18 percent among independents.
“If this poll reflects final voting patterns among Democrats and Republicans, Ohio’s independent voters may hold the keys to both Ohio and the presidency,” Rademacher said. “The poll suggests independent preferences may move around depending on whether they are asked about the economy as a whole, the president’s handling of the auto industry or the 47 percent issue.
“Even so, Romney’s current advantage among independents in perceptions of which candidate would do a better job handling the economy gives him a leg up on the issue as the candidates make their final appeals to independent voters.”
Male voters have swung sharply toward Romney in the past month. In September, he was winning by 2 points among men on who could best improve economic conditions in Ohio. Now, he’s up by 19 on a slightly different question: who can better handle the economy? Overall, his lead with men has jumped from 1 to 12 points.
Women, on the other hand, remain firmly behind Obama, with 55 percent supporting the president against 44 percent who said they support the Republican nominee. Democrats have pushed a “war on women” narrative during the campaign, arguing that Romney’s stance on social issues puts him at odds with most women.
Romney is depending on voters like poll participant Gary Lynn, 66, of Northridge in Clark County. Lynn voted early for Romney, partly because he believes the economy is much worse than the picture conveyed by government statistics.
“I am a pocketbook voter,” he said. “I don’t think (Romney) can do any worse than what we’ve had in the last four years.”
Lynn said he voted for Republican John McCain in 2008, because Obama was an unknown, and he had more confidence in the older, political veteran. He believes that if Romney is elected, economic uncertainty will dissipate, and businesses will feel better about investing and expanding.
“I think the day after (Romney) is elected, we’ll see the stock market go up,” he said. “Money is sitting on the sidelines, and companies are afraid to expand, and the air of uncertainty is bad for business.”
Obama, meanwhile, is leaning on voters like respondent Ben Deacon, 30, of Tipp City. Deacon like Obama’s commitment to the environment. There is a stark difference between Republicans and Democrats on clean, sustainable energy policies, he said, and he commended Obama for doubling renewable energy produced through green sources.
“I think President Obama has a better handle on how to grow the economy in a safe and sustainable way,” he said.
Deacon, who is self-employed, also supports allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, and he would like to see America’s infrastructure rebuilt.
“I think Mitt Romney is a good guy and wants what is best for the country, but I think he has a very different vision of what is best for the country,” he said. “Growing up in a privileged household, I think he has a very different view of American than people who had to pull themselves up by their boot straps.”
After months of negativity in campaign ads, mailers, automated phone calls and stump speeches, perhaps it’s not surprising that 61 percent of Ohio voters say they are “scared” about who may prevail in this year’s presidential election. But it’s an equal-opportunity fright: 29 percent say they would be scared if Romney wins, and the exact same percentage expresses fear if Obama gets a second term. About 3 percent say they are scared no matter who wins.
Kevin Taylor, 39, of Monroe near Cincinnati, an attorney and account manager for a sales team, said he is voting for Romney as “the lesser of two evils.”
Taylor said he had high hopes for Obama four years ago but they have been dashed, so now it’s time for a fresh start. But he worries how much of Romney’s experience “translates to a more global setting.”
Taylor’s mirror image is Rosemary Crum, 68, a retired pharmacist from Pickerington, southeast of Columbus.
“Obama’s the lesser of two evils,” she said. “I’m not necessarily a supporter of Obama, but there’s something about Romney I just can’t stand. There’s nothing about him that says ‘trust me.’ His mouth says that, but nothing else.”
Nearly 1 in 5 Ohio voters said they already had cast an early ballot, and Obama was ahead among this group by 27 points, 63 percent to 36 percent. More Democrats than Republicans say they will “definitely vote.”
However, 58 percent of Republicans describe themselves as “very enthusiastic” about the election, compared to 48 percent of Democrats.
Jennifer Corcoran, 35, of Springfield Twp. in Clark County, said she is supporting Obama, mainly because of social issues such as gay rights and abortion rights.
“As I got older and as I got closer to some gay people — and I have daughters — those issues became more important.”
She said she is less pleased with Obama’s handling of the economy.
“I worry about the economy as it is right now,” she said. “He hasn’t made the jobs he said he would.”
Wesley Allen, 41, a welder at southern Ohio’s Ripley Metal Works, agrees, though he says he is not voting for Obama. He already did that once.
“Four years ago, I made a mistake. I fell for the whole ‘change’ thing,” he said. “I got on the ‘change’ train. But there wasn’t any change.”
This year, Allen already has made plans with four co-workers to meet in front of his Ripley home at 6 a.m. on Election Day and go vote together — all for Romney.
“I honestly believe that Romney will, with his business sense, be able to get us out of this,” he said. “Four years with Obama and we haven’t succeeded in anything.”
The telephone poll — using both landlines and cell phones — conducted by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati between Oct. 18 and Tuesday of 1,015 likely voters has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The response rate was 19.5 percent.
The partisan composition of the randomly chosen respondents: 47 percent Democrat, 44 percent Republican, 10 percent independent. Rademacher said, “This is just inside the range of what we normally see from election to election, which varies between an advantage toward Democrats of plus-5 to an advantage toward Republicans of plus-5 among likely voters.”
Cornelius Frolik of the Dayton Daily News, Jane Prendergast of The Cincinnati Enquirer and Randy Ludlow of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.