COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As the highest-profile election in central Ohio this fall heats up before November, NBC4 took the temperature of its likely voters.

NBC4 teamed up with the highly respected pollsters at Emerson College in Boston to get as much information as possible to voters ahead of the special election for Ohio’s 15th congressional district, the only federal race on this area’s Nov. 2 ballot.

The election will determine who will replace U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington) in January. The two major-party candidates are the Republican, registered coal company lobbyist Mike Carey, and the Democrat, state Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington).

NBC4 wanted to know what is on voters’ minds: How well they know these candidates and what issues are most important to them in this race.

How this poll was conducted

There are particular challenges about polling in a district like Ohio’s 15th. It spreads through more than a dozen counties, covering rural, suburban and urban neighborhoods.

Ohio 15th congressional district wikipedia map
A map shows Ohio’s 15th U.S. congressional district. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The pollsters at Emerson used a combination of landline telephone polling and text-to-web polling, something they found to be very accurate in recent mayoral races in New York City and Boston.

“We believe that the survey research and polling industry are constantly changing with the development of new technologies and how individuals are generally communicating differently in this day and age,” said Emerson College data analyst Isabel Holloway. “So, at Emerson we are constantly trying to use the most accurate methodologies in different polling races and different survey instances to get a representative sample.”

The Emerson College/NBC4 poll includes 445 likely voters in the 15th district and has a margin of error at +/- 4.6 percentage points.

For most polls, you can read the margin of error (MoE) like this: If the poll were to be done again 100 times, in 95 of those times the results would be within “X” percentage points of the original.


So let’s say a national poll of a sampling of registered voters, with an MoE of +/- 3, has:

  • Joe Biden at 53%
  • Donald Trump at 47%

  • You can be 95% certain that a hypothetical poll of all registered U.S. voters would yield results between these extremes:

  • Biden 56/Trump 44 (+3 more for Biden, -3 fewer for Trump)
  • Trump 50/Biden 50 (+3 more for Trump, -3 fewer for Biden)
  • To get poll results most representative of the district, the poll's sample mirrors its basic party affiliation breakdown: About 3 in 10 Democrats, about 4 in 10 Republicans, and one-third independents or other affiliations.

    Emerson pollsters also made sure to use likely voters, a standard classification in political polling in order to get people most likely to cast a ballot. Below is the breakdown of those who are somewhat likely to vote, very likely to vote, or have already voted.

    On Tuesday, NBC4 will publish the first results of this multi-question poll, in particular looking at how well known Carey and Russo are in the 15th district, plus whether voters have formed a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each candidate.