ADA, Ohio (WCMH) – A new poll suggests Ohioans are evenly divided on a proposal to make it more difficult for citizens to amend the state constitution.
The Ohio Northern University poll, conducted online from July 17 to 26, found that neither side of Issue 1 has majority support. Among the 675 polled registered voters, 42.4% approve of Issue 1, while 41% disapprove. The 1.4-point difference is well within the plus or minus 3.7-point margin of error.
If passed, Issue 1 would require all future citizen-initiated amendments to win at least 60% of the vote to pass instead of the simple majority currently needed.
To get an initiative on the ballot, groups would have to collect signatures from 5% of registered voters in all 88 Ohio counties, an increase from the current 44-county requirement. An existing 10-day curing period for groups who did not gather enough valid signatures would be eliminated.
Ohio voted in 1912 to establish the path for citizens to amend the constitution. Since then, voters have passed 20 citizen-initiated amendments, including raising the minimum wage, establishing casinos in certain cities and enshrining additional rights for crime victims.
The Ohio Northern poll starkly contrasts a Suffolk University/USA Today telephone poll that found overwhelming opposition to Issue 1. Unlike the Suffolk poll, the Ohio Northern poll showed more partisan split on Issue 1, with 56% of Democrats opposed to the issue and 53% of Republicans supporting it.
Although August special elections typically have low voter turnout, the poll found the vast majority of voters were aware of the Aug. 8 election – and the sole issue on the ballot. More than 75% of voters heard about Issue 1 “quite a lot” or “some,” and 70% had given “quite a lot” or “some” attention to the election.
Mike Curtin, former editor of the Columbus Dispatch and former two-term democratic state lawmaker, said voters should take the Ohio Northern poll -- or any poll -- with more than a grain of salt.
Polling is unreliable, Curtin said, and has gotten increasingly unreliable with each election cycle. He also cautioned that Ohio's August special election is a unique circumstance -- constitutional amendments are rarely voted on outside of November, and August special elections rarely see significant turnout.
"The polling in this particular campaign is navigating a coal mine without a flashlight," Curtin said. "Nobody should put any stock in any polling for this election."
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life and prominent supporter of Issue 1, disagrees. He believes polls should have a sample size of at least 1,000 to most accurately measure the population's opinion, but the Ohio Northern poll aligns with the pro-Issue 1 campaign's internal polling.
"When you see the polling data, it confirms what we know: It's a neck-and-neck race," Gonidakis said. "We've got eight days to do our closing argument across the state of Ohio."
Abortion and Issue 1
Looming over the Aug. 8 election is the November election, when Ohioans will decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution. Issue 1 has been inextricably linked to the abortion rights amendment, both by its supporters and opponents.
Unlike Issue 1, surveyed voters are in much greater agreement about how – or whether – abortion should be legal.
More than 60% of voters said they believe abortion should be legal, with 34.6% believing it should not be. Nearly 90% of those polled view the topic as important to them.
More than half of voters in the poll believe the Supreme Court erred when it overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Nearly 54% of voters would support the abortion rights amendment in November, a few percentage points lower than reported in the Suffolk poll. With 30% opposing the abortion rights amendment, majority support is well within the margin of error.