Ohio as a Bellwether for National Elections

July 20th, 2016

By Alison Goebel, GOPC Deputy Director

On July 13, Kyle Kondik spoke at the Columbus Metropolitan Club; Kondik is the author of the recently released book, The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.

In his research, Kondik looked at the last 30 national election cycles (i.e. his research begins in the late 1800s) and compared Ohio’s voting record to the national results.  He found that in nearly every election, Ohio very closely mirrored the national outcomes in terms of winners and percent differences between candidates.

Kondik argues Ohio’s unique political, cultural, and physical geography have been, historically, a good representation of the country—Ohio has many smaller cities but no one major urban center that pulls the state Democratic (as Chicago does in Illinois), no single industry that dominates the state (as coal does in West Virginia), and Ohio’s urban and rural areas are moderated by its growing suburban areas.

Interviewed by Karen Kasler, Kondik predicted that Ohio’s “collar counties”—those counties outside Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton that make up the metro regions of the state—will take on more importance in the 2016 election.  These are the places that are seeing the greatest population growth and are politically more variable than the urban county they surround. 

Kondik did not predict how Ohio would go in November, but he did predict that Ohio’s final “spreads” would mirror the national outcome in this election.  He did also note that in future elections, Ohio’s relative racial homogeneity may make Ohio less of a bellwether as Latinos and other racial-ethnic groups continue to grow in numbers, nationally.

As former Attorney General Richard Cordray’s Director of Policy and Research, Kondik was a wealth of information on how Ohio compared to national trends but also how individual counties in Ohio performed compared to each other over a number of decades.

While Kondik’s research may not have a direct land use angle, his perceptiveness of how policy and politics unfold does provide insight into Ohio’s current local, state, and national political environment.