The economy and jobs dominate as the top issue in Ohio, lending fuel to John Kerry's candidacy -- and keeping the presidential race very close in this potentially crucial state.
A third of likely voters in Ohio call the economy and jobs the most important issue in their vote, putting it substantially ahead of terrorism, Iraq or health care. The economy stands taller as the top concern in Ohio than nationally -- and that helps Kerry. Likely voters who pick it as their top issue favor him over President Bush by 73 percent to 25 percent.
In the race overall, 50 percent of Ohio likely voters in this ABC News poll favor Kerry, with 47 percent for Bush -- a close race, with the difference between the candidates within the survey's margin of sampling error. It remains 50 percent to 47 percent with Nader in the race; he's currently off the ballot with a court challenge pending.
In another contest of interest, likely voters divide on a proposed amendment to the Ohio state constitution banning gay marriage, with 48 percent in favor, 45 percent opposed. That contest may be pulling a few, but just a few, voters to the polls: Four percent call it the most important contest on the ballot. And preferences in the state's U.S. Senate race show a very large lead for the incumbent Republican, George Voinovich.
Most Important Issue: Ohio v. National
|Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.|
The economic concerns make sense: Unemployment in Ohio (in the latest data, from August) is 6.3 percent, up from 4.2 percent in August 2000, when Bush beat Al Gore in the state by 166,735 votes. In 2000 Ohio's unemployment rate was almost identical to the national average, 4.1 percent; now Ohio's rate is nearly a point worse than unemployment nationally.
More than half of likely voters, 54 percent, say most Ohioans are not as well off financially as when Bush became president, underscoring his vulnerability on the economy. Just 10 percent say most people are better off, while about a third think most people in the state are about the same financially as when Bush came to office.
These views inform votes. Among likely voters who say most people in Ohio are worse off, 83 percent favor Kerry for president. By equally huge margins, those who say the state's residents are better off, or the same, favor Bush.
Vote Preference Among Likely Voters
|Ohioan's Financial Situation||Bush||Kerry|
On the economic front it's notable, too, that Kerry leads Bush by 61 percent to 36 percent among voters with household incomes under $50,000 -- while among better-off voters, Bush leads by 55 percent to 43 percent.
Election history prompts the intense focus on Ohio this year. No Republican presidential candidate has won the presidency without Ohio, and only two Democrats have won without Ohio since 1900 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 and John F. Kennedy in 1960. At the same time, history is not predictive, and each election is new.
The race is hardly decided. Kerry holds an edge over Bush on some issues -- helping the middle class, creating jobs and health care. But they're close to even (Kerry +4) in trust to handle the economy overall, and Bush leads in Ohio, as elsewhere, on terrorism and the war in Iraq.