June 10, 2022 8:00am

Power Poll Members Favor DeWine and Ryan in Big Ohio Races and Rank Their Summer Priorities

They see a number of challenges ahead, but little chance of meaningful gun legislation.

Photo of John Fox
Cincinnati, OH Correspondent

Welcome to the reboot of Cincinnati's Power Poll, a monthly taking of local leaders' temperatures on local, regional and national issues. Maybe that "temperature" analogy isn't the best, given COVID's dogged refusal to depart. Is it just me, or did more friends and relatives catch COVID in the past month than at any time since mid-2020? At least their cases have been fairly mild.

Speaking of mild, the strength of candidate support from June poll responses for this fall's marquee political races in Ohio—Governor and U.S. Senator—is mildly surprising, I think. Democrat Tim Ryan is backed significantly over the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate, J.D. Vance, while incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine is backed fairly closely over his Democratic challenger, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Given a choice of 12 issues or trends in the news this summer, poll members ranked a mix of economic, social and political issues as their top priorities, along with the war in Ukraine and the ongoing struggle against COVID. And when asked if they thought meaningful gun control legislation was possible in the current post-Buffalo and post-Uvalde climate, a large majority said, "Maybe, but probably not."

Here are the specific questions and answers for the June Cincinnati Power Poll:

Given the Republican Party's domination over statewide elections in Ohio in recent years and the fact that whoever wins the U.S. Senate race will be replacing GOP icon Rob Portman, Tim Ryan's 59%-23% lead over J.D. Vance among Power Poll members is, yes, surprising. Especially following Vance's high-profile win in the Republican primary after being so publicly embraced by Donald Trump. Obviously this isn't a scientific political poll, and it's possible some Northern Kentucky members provided an opinion on this question. Hey, we don't have any poll watchers or security checks here at Power Poll HQ, just a healthy exchange of opinions. Still, if nothing else, these poll results indicate that Ryan's candidacy may be breaking through the clutter and resonating more than Vance's at this point.

If you're among the 15% undecided poll responders or you didn't participate in the June poll, let me point you to information for both candidates:

Tim Ryan, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio's 13th District since January 2003: Campaign website.

J.D. Vance, Middletown native who served in the Marines, was a Silicon Valley investor and wrote Hillbilly Elegy: Campaign website.

By all accounts, Mike DeWine has been a popular governor over the past four years. He received almost universal praise for his leadership during the early months of the COVID crisis in 2020, except from members of his own party, who stripped him of his authority to manage this and future health crises. And he's played a pretty big role in the redistricting debacle that Republicans foisted on state voters. But this fall's election seems to be DeWine's to lose, given that his Democratic challenger, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, isn't all that well known across the state.

Therefore, his 52%-41% lead in the June Power Poll is, like the Senate race, surprising. All of the same caveats from the first question apply here, so my takeaway is that, like Ryan's campaign, perhaps Whaley's candidacy is breaking through the clutter a bit.

Only 5% of respondents in this race are undecided, but here is candidate information for them and others:

Gov. Mike DeWine: Campaign website.

Nan Whaley, Dayton Mayor from 2013 to 2021: Campaign website.

There's a long, hot summer ahead of us, with the usual mix of everyday challenges like keeping our kids active and planning a vacation overlaying the two-year-long pandemic that's upended everything. We gave Power Poll members a menu of 12 issues all of us are dealing with this summer and asked them to rank their top personal priorities from 1 to 5, with 1 being their most important priority. The top five answers are rising gas prices, crime and violence, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling on abortion and re-emergence of widespread COVID.

Unlike the two election questions above, these results aren't surprising. Personal economic and safety issues are always top-of-mind with people when you ask them what they're concerned about. Now "crime and violence" can mean different things to different people—some poll members might be referring to the rise in mass shootings, others might be referring to day-to-day criminal activity in their neighborhoods. "Rising gas prices" is self-explanatory. These results are a reminder that inflation and personal safety impact more of us more personally than a lot of other events in the news.

Following those top five, in decreasing order of importance, are securing federal funding for the new Brent Spence Bridge, bringing more co-workers and colleagues back to the office safely, keeping the kids active and engaged, taking a real summer vacation again, preparing for or working on this fall's elections, Cincinnati's possible role as a World Cup 2026 host city and turning the Reds' woeful season around. As a sports fan, I'll stick up for those last two issues: We find out if Cincinnati is a World Cup host city this Thursday, June 16, and the Reds are playing a little better these days.

This month's last poll question was asked as the U.S. House and Senate debated gun control and management legislation in the wake of recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and elsewhere. The House passed legislation yesterday, and a bipartisan group of Senators is discussing possible legal tweaks that would not go anywhere as far as the House bill. We asked Power Poll members if these recent shootings might be an impetus to change laws, either locally or federally, around gun ownership, sales and use.

More than three quarters of responders are not enthusiastic: 38% say "maybe," 36% say "no" and 3% think that current state and federal gun laws are good as they are. Only 23% say "yes," this is finally the time for meaningful action. At least no one responded that they don't care. As seen in the summer priorities answers above, everyone cares about personal safety.

Click here to learn more about Power Poll, which is now in 30-plus U.S. cities. If you're on our Cincinnati Power Poll member mailing list, let me know if you'd like to add other local leaders for the next poll. Leave comments for everyone to see by clicking on the "View Comments" button.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll