Rural voters in Ohio last week bucked the statewide trend when they voted by a large margin in favor of a constitutional amendment that would have made it harder to protect abortion rights.
But rural voters behaved like the rest of the state in showing far less support for the Republican-backed amendment than they did for the 2020 Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.
Rural Ohioans voted by a 24-point margin in favor of the amendment (62% to 38%), while statewide the measure was defeated by 14 points (43% to 57%).
In 2020 rural voters favored Trump over Democrat Joe Biden by 38 points in the two-party vote (69% to 31%). Statewide, Trump won Ohio by 8 points, 54% to 46% in the two-party tally.
Every one of the state’s 88 counties showed less support for the constitutional amendment than they did for Trump in 2020.
To create the comparison, the Daily Yonder broke out votes by urban-to-rural county types and compared last week’s percentage results to the presidential vote in 2020. We have six types of counties, ranging from the central counties of major metropolitan areas through rural (nonmetropolitan) counties. (There’s a table at the bottom of the story with more information on our county types.)
By definition, this comparison is not a referendum on support for Republican or Democratic candidates. Constitutional amendments are about policy, not people. Another caveat is that the constitutional amendment was the only measure on the ballot last week in Ohio, so the contest was likely to draw a more motivated electorate than those who vote in presidential elections.
The results of our comparison are in the graph at the top of this story. The blue is the 2020 presidential election, and the red is the 2023 constitutional amendment.
In every category of county, the average percentage of votes was greater for Trump in 2020 than for the amendment in 2023.
There were fewer landslide counties in the constitutional vote than in the 2020 presidential election. Trump won an astonishing 71 of 88 counties by more than 20 points. Only 46 counties were landslide victories for the constitutional amendment.
Rural counties had the smallest percentage-point change compared to 2020. The change in the central or most urbanized of major and medium-sized metropolitan areas was similar to the change in rural counties (9 points in major and medium-sized metros vs. 7 points in rural counties). The graph below shows the percentage-point change from Republican Trump to Republican constitutional amendment.
The most interesting terrain in this analysis is the large swing away from the Republican side of the ledger in suburban Ohio. In 2020, the suburbs of Ohio’s largest cities (Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus) supported Trump by 62%. In the suburbs of medium-sized cities (Canton, Toledo, Dayton, Youngstown, Akron, and the Huntington, West Virginia, metro area), 65% of voters supported Trump. Those are impressive margins, and they rival Trump’s 69% performance in rural counties.
But the constitutional amendment failed (albeit by narrow margins) in those same counties last week.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, which posits that support for Trump is a rural phenomenon, Democrats struggled and lost big in suburban Ohio in 2020. This time around, those suburban voters were part of defeating a Republican-backed measure.
The special election last week indicates that voters across the state -- from the biggest cities to rural areas -- are more in play on that issue than they were on the most recent presidential election.
County-types definitions used in this analysis:
|Major Metro Core||Central counties of metropolitan areas with 1 million or more residents.|
|Major Metro Suburbs||Suburban counties of metropolitan areas with 1 million or more residents.|
|Medium Metro Core||Central counties of metropolitan areas with 250,000 to under 1 million residents.|
|Medium Metro Suburbs||Suburban counties of metropolitan areas with250,000 to under 1 million residents.|
|Small Metros||Counties in metropolitan areas with fewer than 250,000 residents|
|Non-Metro||Counties that are not in a metropolitan area. Synonymous with rural in this analysis.|