Many Voters Still Undecided, Lacking Enthusiasm in Ohio

ABC News is in Ohio to ask voters their opinions on the election.

ByABC News
September 15, 2016, 5:15 AM

Thursday evening, Sept. 15

COLUMBUS, Ohio— -- It’s not often that Democrats and Republicans sit down and talk politics over a cup of coffee amid more laughter than discord, but in the small town of Utica, Ohio, that’s exactly what happens. Members of the 'Utica Coffee Club' gather at the Pioneer restaurant every morning for breakfast and some good old-fashioned jawing about politics… and we were with them today. Mostly retired now, these guys have political opinions as varied as the careers they hung their hats on, but the one thing they do agree on is that the support they feel for their chosen candidates is tepid, at best. Several of them have even yet to make up their minds about which lever they will throw, come election day.

The trustworthiness of both candidates was a foremost issue on the minds of these men. Hillary Clinton’s ties to wealthy donors and Donald Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns suggest to them that both candidates are trying to hide things.

At lunch, we carried on our conversations over hot dogs at a popular joint in downtown Columbus. Could compare a candidate to a hot dog? These voters did...

Thursday, Sept. 15

Yesterday, we visited college campuses and talked to students about the upcoming election. Today, the plan is to talk to more voters over some coffee and.... yes.... some hot dogs.

The college campuses showcased younger voters' interest in third party candidates as well as stronger support for Clinton and the Democratic Party than we had seen in more rural parts of the state.

A new Bloomberg News poll out this week revealed that about nine percent of likely Ohio voters were still undecided. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson garnered about ten percent of support in the state, according to Bloomberg's poll, and more than double that among voters under 35 years old. We saw this age gap firsthand during our visit to Ohio State and Kent State Universities where Johnson's name came up frequently.

The more traditional party voters on the campuses vocalized concern over the two major party candidates too. Several young Democrats expressed anxiety over Clinton’s more hawkish foreign policy and Republicans spoke regrettably about Trump’s tone and divisive language.

"I’m going to vote for Hillary. I know some people may not like that. But to me it’s one thing to know policies it’s another thing to have a heart for the human spirit. And one of the things that really showed me that Hillary was president was when she said to a ten year old girl that your parents will not be deported. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from everyone should have their parents, regardless if you’re an immigrant or natural born citizen," one young man at Kent State said, reflecting a distinct change in attitude on the subject of immigration from what he had heard during interviews in other parts of the state earlier in the week.

Another student, when asked what the priority should be for the next president on the first day of office, said, "These are the two most unpopular candidates in the history of presidential elections. So there’s a lot of healing that needs to be done and a lot of camaraderie that needs to be fostered in the nation."

One young fashion major even had style advice for the two candidates. She said Trump needed a new hairdo and Clinton should be more "edgy."

"Her suits are boring. I like edgy so I think it should be more edgy like form fitting, not inappropriate because you know, that would be negative.... but if it was cute and chic that’ll work. Sharp cuts."

Next stop: The 'Utica Coffee Club,' where Democrats and Republicans alike reportedly meet daily to debate. Stay tuned.

Oh yea and at night, some parts of this state feel very remote...

During our 40-minute live segment yesterday in Wooster, 15 participants spun ABC's wheel of questions.

Betsy Sheets, chair of the Wayne County Democrats, said she was "not concerned" about Hillary Clinton's health at this point.

"She has walking pneumonia which is a very familiar form of pneumonia. It's easily controlled with antibiotics, and she will be fine in a week. She's a tough lady, she's going to make a great president and she's going to be our first female president," she told ABC News.

She continued, "She will also be considering the legacy for all of us women and for all of our daughters and granddaughters. We'll now be able to look at that office and say, 'I could do that.'"

Our interviews demonstrated the closeness of the race here. Republicans and Democrats stepped up to our microphone to advocate for their candidates and party. We spoke to several party volunteers and organizers who said they have been working hard to win in November.

Doug Deeken, the chairman of the Wayne County Republicans, told us was originally been a Rand Paul fan but was now backing Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump is a little bit of an outsider. He wasn't the party’s choice in terms of, you know, what the RNC wanted. He's not Jeb Bush, he's not Mitt Romney, he's somebody from outside the traditional power structure, and Rand Paul was too, and I guess maybe I just like an underdog," Deeken said.

Deeken added that he thought Trump would win in Ohio.

"This is always a bellwether state, always a battleground state, but you know here in Ohio, we are purple, we go either way. Wayne County is very Republican and Ohio is going to go that way," he noted. "Our U.S. Senate race between Portman and Strickland. Portman is the Republican, is absolutely romping all over his Democrat opponent and I think that's going to translate to other races on the ballot too so absolutely Trump wins Ohio no question."

Next up: Ohio State University in Columbus.

Tuesday, Sept. 13

A warm welcome to Wayne County. The local paper, The Daily Record, talked about our Step Right Up project on the front page.

We also (finally!) tried the legendary Lerch's donuts during an interview with Orrville, Ohio mayor Dave Handwerk.

Monday night, Sept. 12

The old adage "all politics is local" was never more evident than on Monday night at the Williams County Fair in Ohio. People from this rural, northwest corner of the state talked about their concern over a lack of jobs in their towns. They were worried about their sons and daughters in the military.

Forget questions about Clinton's health or Trump's temperament. On the whole, folks wanted to talk about policy issues: immigration, the economy, violence in inner cities and a sense of disunity — racial and political — that seems pervasive in the county.

Watch the full video here:

One woman, who said she was likely voting for Trump, spun our wheel and landed on this question: "What is the most outrageous thing you've heard this campaign cycle?" Her answer: "Why are we so focused on Hillary's illnesses and well-being, instead of focusing on the issues that are out there?"

Another gentleman, who said he was a farmer and heavy machinist, joked while spinning the wheel. "I don’t care if it's spun to the left or spun to the right," he said. "Because, much like the election, I don't care if it's spun to the left or spun to the right, I care where we end up."

In the last presidential election, Romney outperformed Obama in this part of the state, though he lost Ohio on the whole. Today, the area was dominated by Trump signs and fans.

Mike McCann, the mayor of Defiance, Ohio, said he believed Trump would take the buckeye state. "We are trying to reinvent ourselves, moving away from manufacturing, showing more of an interest in technology. I think Donald Trump would be good for helping the exodus of jobs from Ohio to Mexico."

"As far as what the voters are telling me, they would like to get back to some of the old values that my generation grew up with and I think that's what they are after," McCann went on. "I think we have had eight years of President Obama and here in Ohio we don't like what we are seeing."

Another man echoed this idea of returning to a bygone time and said the country needed to look at reinstating school prayer. Asked what the most important issue was for the next president to address on day one, he said illegal immigration.

Still, John Engler, a lone representative from the county Democrats committee said he thought Clinton had a chance to take the state. He called himself an "anomaly" in this Republican-dominated area, and got emotional talking about all he felt Clinton had done for the world. When asked (via our wheel) what was the one thing he disliked most about Clinton, he talked about her relationship to the Clinton Foundation.

"One thing I think is challenging for her is separating herself from the foundation and her presidency run. And I know that tends to be a problem and I understand in the future she plans to separate herself from the foundation, but I see that being a challenge,” Engler said.

An incredible first day talking to thoughtful voters. And yes, we also had a little fun.

Monday, Sept. 12

... And we're off.

With 56 days until the 2016 presidential election, ABC News is hitting the road and talking to voters in the battleground state of Ohio.

Watch it all live here:

Over the next five days, our plan is to drive more than 800 miles and visit six Ohio counties — stopping at coffee clubs, college campuses and county fairs along the way. The goal is simple: to hear from voters. (ok and maybe ride some rides and try Lerch's donuts... can't wait!)

Four years ago, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney here by less than 2 percentage points. Last week, a Quinnipiac poll had Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a dead heat in the must-win state: Trump 46 – Clinton 45. It's anyone's game.

Step Right Up is the name of our game. Check out our wheel:

We hope people won’t be shy, but will spin the wheel and answer the random questions: "If you could pick anyone to be the next president, who would it be?", "What is the first thing the next president should do after taking office?", "What's the most outrageous thing you've heard this campaign?" (Who doesn’t have opinions about that?)

It has been a roller coaster of an election and we’re going to keep talking about all of it –- hopefully, at some point, from an actual roller coaster.

Updates to come.

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