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Examining Ohio’s political leanings

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With 18 electoral votes up for grabs (two less than in the 2008 presidential election due to population shifts), Ohio is one of the critical states for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to win in their bid for the presidency. It is a particularly interesting state to watch as it allowed voters start voting on October 2. Many believe that more Democrats work during traditional voting hours, so the additional poll times might increase the number of Democrats that vote, benefiting Obama. In 2008, nearly 30 percent of Ohio voters cast their votes ahead of Election Day. The state has not consistently voted for one party during presidential races. Between 1972 and 2008, the state voted Republican 6 times and Democrat 4 times. In 2008, Obama won 52 percent to 47 percent over John McCain. Political analysts aren’t too sure what will happen this time as the polls show it is too close to call.

The map and data below tell the story of the demographic and political makeup of the Ohio voters prior to the election. What will sway the voters in this state? What do we know about them? We’ll be sure to check back after Nov. 6 to see what the election results reveal.

General population statistics

Known as the “The Buckeye State,” Ohio has a population of just over 11.7 million people. Its population is one of the least diverse states in the union with the majority being white, non-Hispanic. Esri, the world’s leader in geographic information systems (GIS), created a proprietary Diversity Index that measures diversity on a scale of 0 to 100. The Diversity Index is defined as the likelihood that two people, selected at random from the same area, would belong to a different race or ethnic group. The Diversity Index for Ohio is 34.4. This compares to a US Diversity Index of 61. Not surprisingly, the percentage of both Hispanics and Blacks is lower in the state than in the overall US population. 2.5 percent of adults in Ohio identify themselves as Hispanic and 11.4 percent of adults identify themselves as Black.

Here are some key demographic statistics about Ohio:

Demographic Variable



Median Age



% Male / % Female



Median Household Income



% Hispanic 18+ Population



% Black 18+ Population



Median Home Value



Sources: Esri 2011/2016 Updated Demographics, US Census

Esri provides Market Potential data that includes a Market Potential Index (MPI). The Index measures the probability that adults or households in a specific area will exhibit certain consumer behaviors compared to the US average. The Index is tabulated to represent a value of 100 as the overall demand for the US. This Index shows that the residents of Ohio are slightly more conservative overall than the average American.

Market Potential Variable


Consider self very conservative


Consider self somewhat conservative


Consider self middle of the road


Consider self somewhat liberal


Consider self very liberal


Sources: Esri, GfK MRI

A resident of Ohio is 4 percent more likely than the average American to consider himself very conservative and 5 percent more likely to consider himself somewhat conservative. A resident of Ohio is 10 percent less likely than the average American to consider himself somewhat liberal and 13 percent less likely than the average American to consider himself very liberal.

Ohio politics Market Potential Index

Click on image for an interactive version of this map

Where people live in Ohio does appear to somewhat sway their political leanings. People in and around larger cities are more likely to be Democrat or at least somewhat conservative (versus very conservative). Residents of rural areas and small towns tend to likely have conservative views. For Democrats, it is important to know that the ZIP code with the highest likelihood of very liberal voters is 43215 – located in Columbus. The index for someone who considers himself very liberal is 248 – meaning a resident there is 2.48 times more likely to consider himself more liberal than the average American. For Republicans, the most conservative ZIP code in Ohio is 45870 – located in New Hampshire, a small area in western Ohio with a population of just 12. The index for very conservative people there is 171, meaning a resident is 1.71 times more likely than the average American to consider himself very conservative. There are many areas around the state, though, where a significant number of people consider themselves to be very conservative.

Tapestry Segmentation classifies Ohio neighborhoods

Esri also developed the Tapestry Segmentation system that classifies US residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.

The top Tapestry segments for the State of Ohio are:

Tapestry Segment

% Adults

Rustbelt Traditions


Salt of the Earth


Rustbelt Retirees


Cozy and Comfortable


Green Acres


The most dominant Tapestry segment in Ohio is Rustbelt Traditions. The backbone of older industrial cities in the Great Lakes border states residents of Rustbelt Traditions neighborhoods live in modest, single-family homes; about half work in white-collar jobs. The median age is 35.9 years and the median household income is $42,337.

Map of Ohio by tapestry segment

Click on image to enlarge map.


One key factor in the upcoming election is unemployment. This is a key figure that US citizens have been watching carefully. It has a great impact on the economy as well as affecting many people personally. The unemployment rate not only varies by state, but also by county. When Barack Obama was sworn in as US President in January 2009, Ohio had an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent, which was greater than the national number of 7.8 percent. In August 2012 (the latest figures available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), that number had decreased to 7.2 percent compared to 8.1 percent nationally. In terms of employment, Ohio is doing better than the US overall. Of course, the rate for each county in Ohio varies based on its individual situation.

Ohio unemployment change: January 2009 to August 2012

Click on image to enlarge map.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Most counties in Ohio have lower unemployment rates now than when Obama took over as president – some as much as a 6 percent decrease or more. Only three have an increase. The county with the biggest decrease in unemployment was Huron County, in northern Ohio. Its unemployment rate dropped 8.2 points from 16.4 percent to 10.2 percent from January 2009 and August 2012.

The county with the largest increase in unemployment was Jefferson County, located in eastern Ohio not far from Philadelphia, PA. Unemployment was 10.0 percent in January 2009 and rose to 10.6 percent in August 2012.

Why does this matter?

Understanding the types of people who live in Ohio can help Barack Obama and Mitt Romney target their campaigns and even messaging. Knowing what the local issues are, what the demographic make-up of an area is, what the political leanings are of an area, where unemployment is high or low, where their likely constituents live, or knowing what types of activities they participate in can help them find their supporters – at a very local level – and help them be in a better position win an election.

More information about Esri’s data can be found at or to learn more about Esri in general, go to

Pam Allison is a digital media, marketing strategist, and location intelligence consultant. You can visit her blog at