The View From Ohio: Approval of Political Leaders and Hypothetical Voting Intention

September 8, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Approval Rating | Joe Biden | Ohio | US Politics | US Public Figures

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Until 2016, Ohio was considered a bellwether state, with its electorate largely reflecting the voting behaviour of the entire country. In the 2020 Presidential Election, however, Donald Trump received 53.27% of the vote, compared to the 45.24% vote share received by Joe Biden. The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies mirrors this latest electoral outcome and finds that President Joe Biden’s approval rating is currently negative in Ohio. The state’s Republican Governor, however, enjoys a favourable rating, driven by bipartisan approval of his overall job performance thus far.

Currently, 40% of the state’s residents approve and 46% disapprove of President Joe Biden’s overall job performance as President, resulting in a -6% net approval rating. A further 10% neither approve nor disapprove. Those who voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 Election take a more positive view, with 79% approving of the President’s overall job performance thus far. Among 2020 Donald Trump voters, by contrast, 81% disapprove, with 63% disapproving strongly.

When it comes to respondents’ assessment of the Joe Biden Administration’s performance on specific policy issues, disapproval outweighs approval in all but the following two cases. Firstly, a plurality (48%) approves of the Joe Biden Administration’s performance on the coronavirus pandemic, while 37% disapprove and 12% neither approve nor disapprove. These figures are driven by high approval among 2020 Biden voters (88%). In comparison, only 16% of 2020 Trump voters say they approve of the Joe Biden Administration’s performance on the coronavirus pandemic. Secondly, a narrow plurality of 36% approves of the Biden Administration’s performance on the environment, compared to 35% who disapprove and 24% who neither approve nor disapprove. 

With regards to other policy areas, disapproval of the Biden Administration’s performance is the dominant view. The policy area on which respondents express the greatest degree of disapproval is immigration. Here, 49% of respondents overall disapprove of the Administration’s performance, while 25% approve and a further 21% neither approve nor disapprove. Overall disapproval results from 80% of 2020 Trump voters who select this answer, compared to a significantly lower proportion of 17% of 2020 Biden voters who do. Pluralities also disapprove of the Administration’s performance on housing (38%) and crime/policing (44%).

The Biden Administration’s foreign and security policy appears to be another source of discontentment among voters in Ohio. 46% of respondents disapprove of the Administration’s handling of relations with China, while 26% approve and 21% neither approve nor disapprove. Similarly, 43% disapprove and 28% approve of the Administration’s handling of relations with Russia. Here, 23% neither approve nor disapprove. Moreover, 45% of respondents express their disapproval with regards to defence, where 30% approve and 20% neither approve nor disapprove. In all three cases, disapproval is notably driven by 2020 Trump voters, with pluralities or majorities of 2020 Biden voters conversely saying they approve of the Administration’s performance. 

When it comes to economic questions, disapproval is still the plurality position, though with a slightly narrower margin. As such, 46% disapprove and 38% approve of the Biden Administration’s performance on the economy. Further, 44% approve and 35% disapprove of how the Administration seeks to address unemployment. 

In comparison to the negative net approval rating given to President Joe Biden by residents of Ohio, views of the state’s Senators and Governor are relatively more positive. 42% approve and 28% disapprove of Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown’s overall job performance (a net approval rating of +14%), and 34% approve and 29% disapprove of Republican Senator Rob Portman’s performance (a net approval rating of +5%). Amid this positive net approval rating, Portman—whose seat will be up for re-election in November 2022—has announced he will not be seeking a third term, with his seat likely to be highly contested. 

Indeed, our hypothetical voting intention polling finds that the election of Ohio’s new junior Senator could be a close one. After weighting by likelihood to vote, 37% of respondents would vote for Democratic US Representative Tim Ryan and 36% would vote for author and Republican candidate J D Vance, if they were the respective nominees for the Senate seat. Results are similar if Tim Ryan were to run against former Chair of the Ohio Republican Party Jane Timken, in which case 38% say they would vote for Ryan and 36% would vote for Timken. If Tim Ryan were to run against former State Treasurer and pro-Trump candidate Josh Mandel, however, the hypothetical Republican nominee leads with 41% to Ryan’s 37% of the vote. Even so, relatively high proportions of 23%, 22%, and 17%, respectively, say they don’t know how they would vote in these hypothetical Senate Election scenarios. This level of current indecision further underlines that the 2022 Senate Election in Ohio will be one to watch.

Unlike Senator Rob Portman, Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine has announced he will seek re-election in the state’s 2022 Gubernatorial Election. Currently, DeWine enjoys a significantly positive net approval rating of +28%, with 54% approving and 26% disapproving of his job performance thus far. These results are all the more remarkable given that not only 48% of 2020 Trump voters but an even higher proportion of 61% of 2020 Biden voters approve of the Republican Governor’s job performance. 

Mike DeWine thus appears well-positioned to win re-election. Our hypothetical voting intention poll finds that, after weighting by likelihood to vote, 46% would vote for DeWine and 27% would vote for current Mayor of Dayton Nan Whaley, were she to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for Governor. Similarly, 47% would vote for DeWine if he were to run against Democratic Mayor of Cincinnati John Cranley, for whom 25% would currently vote. A respective 16% and 15% of respondents say they don’t know how they would vote in these hypothetical Gubernatorial Election scenarios. 

The areas in which respondents convey the highest levels of approval of Mike DeWine’s performance are the coronavirus pandemic (54%), the economy (44%), and addressing unemployment (41%). Pluralities also approve of the Governor’s performance on crime/policing (38%), taxes (35%), and the environment (34%). Housing (33%) and immigration (29%) are the only policy areas in which approval is not the plurality position, as a respective 34% and 36% of respondents say they neither approve nor disapprove of the Governor’s performance on these issues. 

That approval outweighs disapproval in all policy areas, however, further suggests that significant proportions of Ohio residents are largely satisfied with their Governor’s performance. Notably, partisan differences in views are minimal, indicating that this general satisfaction with his performance is a bipartisan phenomenon. In a swing state such as Ohio, this finding is all the more noteworthy. 

Overall, Ohio residents appear satisfied with the Joe Biden Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the environment, though they disapprove of the Administration’s performance on all other policy areas polled. In line with these views, the President’s current net approval rating in the state is negative. Overall approval of the state’s Republican Governor, on the other hand, is high—and noteworthy due to its bipartisan nature. Ultimately, with its 2022 Senate Election likely to be a close race, Ohio will most likely retain its status as an important swing state oscillating between both major parties.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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