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Crime, Guns And Drugs Top Concerns Of African Americans In Ohio

Voters cast their ballots at the Cincinnati Public Library's polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Voters cast their ballots at the Cincinnati Public Library's polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, in Cincinnati.

Crime, drugs and guns top the list of social issues most concerning to African Americans in Ohio, according to a statewide poll released Wednesday.

A new poll by the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) Foundation and Akron University’s Bliss Institute surveyed1,500 black Ohioans on a wide range of issues. 

“About 48% of those identified issues like social order problems such as crime, drugs, gun control, racial discrimination, with crime being at the top of that list,” says Derrick Clay, board chair of the OLBC Foundation.

The poll found that 53% of those surveyed favor protecting the right of citizens to own guns. Respondents also overwhelmingly supported abortion rights and stricter environmental laws.

Organizers call this poll is the first of its kind in Ohio, saying that state surveys on African Americans are rare. The poll included people ages 18-55, both voters and nonvoters.

“We saw this as an opportunity to really showcase what’s important to African Americans, not assume what’s important, but actually ask folks in the community what’s important to them,” Clay says.

The OLBC Foundation plans to play a major role across the state to provide ongoing discussions with black Ohioans, and elected leaders and candidates.

Clay says that 28.7% of respondents chose public programs such as health care, transportation and housing as their top area of concern.

“Health care was at the top of that list with 5.9%,” Clay says. “Roads and transportation came in second at about 4.8%. Housing and homelessness was third, and then you had education, family, children, youth.”

Clay says the poll did not distinguish between African Americans who are liberals or conservatives.

“We were really interested in just the overall opinions of African Americans across the state so we did not discriminate based on Democrat, Republican, independent, Libertarian or otherwise,” Clay says.

Economic issues such as jobs came in third in the survey, at 18.2%. The political process, including political divisions, voting rights and gerrymandering, was a fourth major concern.

Clay says he hopes that the poll will be helpful in educating candidates about what’s on the minds of Ohio's African American residents.

“Every candidate that’s on the ballot, including our incumbent president, look at things that are important to the African American community,” Clay says. “And just as the OLBC foundation has went out and actually asked about African Americans voters about what’s important to them, the presidential candidates should do the same.”

Copyright 2020 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.