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New poll shows U.S. Senate race in Ohio neck and neck

U.S. Senate candidates Tim Ryan and J.D. Vance on the TV stage at the U.S. Senate candidates debate hosted by WJW Fox8 Cleveland.
A new poll shows U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan four points ahead of challenger J.D. Vance, basically a tie when factoring in the poll's margin of error.

A Baldwin Wallace University poll released today shows the U.S. Senate race between Republican J.D. Vance and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, essentially tied, factoring in the poll's margin of error.

It also indicates that a large number of voters may split their tickets and vote for both Ryan and incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

The poll has DeWine with a comfortable 17-point lead over Democrat Nan Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton. The poll shows Ryan with a four point lead over Vance, just at the poll's margin of error.

Lauren Copeland, political science professor and associate director of BW's Community Research Institute (CRI), said ticket splitters used to be thought of as a thing of the past, but likely will be more common this election.

"In Ohio, DeWine earned bipartisan praise for his handling of the pandemic – a stark contrast to Vance who ran far to the right in the primary," Copeland said. "It is likely we will see many DeWine-Ryan ticket splitters this November.”

The poll found that independents may be the key to both the Senate and gubernatorial races. DeWine and Ryan are both outperforming their opponents among independents and women, the poll shows. DeWine holds a 33 point lead over Whaley among independents, while Ryan holds a seven point lead over Vance. However, the gender gap in the Senate race is much bigger. Women favor Ryan over Vance by 17 points.

Top of mind for Ohio voters is inflation, abortion and preserving democracy. However, this is not leading voters to cast ballots along party lines. Ryan is polling much better than fellow Democrat Whaley among voters who are concerned about inflation. Voters who prefer Ryan give equal weight to abortion, preserving democracy and inflation, but voters who prefer Vance and DeWine say inflation is their number one concern.

Name recognition is also contributing heavily to the gubernatorial race. The poll showed that less than 2% of voters say they don't know who DeWine is, while 18% say they don't know Whaley, giving DeWine an incumbent advantage.

The Ohio Supreme Court will swing to the right on Election Day if the poll results hold up. Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy leads by seven points over Democratic Justice Jennifer Brunner in the race for Chief Justice. Incumbent Republican Justices Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine lead their Democratic opponents, Ohio Appellate Court Judges Terri Jamison and Marilyn Zayas, by eight and seven points, respectively. This is the first Ohio Supreme Court election in which party affiliation appears on the ballots.

“The state’s highest court can have an important say when it comes to issues like abortion, redistricting and LGBTQ+ rights," said Tom Sutton, political science professor and director of the BW CRI, "and party affiliation provides voters with an information shortcut.”

The poll surveyed 1,013 likely voters in Ohio between Oct. 20 and Oct. 23. The margin of error is +/-3.65%.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.