COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nearly half of black Ohioans experienced discrimination in the past year and a majority believe that black Ohioans who work hard might not be able to get ahead, according to a first-of-its-kind poll.
About 58% of black Ohioans surveyed said they could work hard and still not get ahead in this state. The poll comes from the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation and the University of Akron’s Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. The margin of error is plus or minus two percentage points.
“You have a majority of Ohioans that say, as a black person, I can do all I can do. I can do all the right things. I can go to school, go to college and I still won’t get ahead in Ohio,” said Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland, president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. “That’s the message that we as legislators need to get and then from there understand how we change that narrative.”
About 46% of black Ohioans said they had experienced some form of discrimination in the past year. Another 13% said they frequently experienced discrimination in the past year.
The top reasons given for the discrimination were the darkness of their skin, their location at the time, facial features and hair.
Three-fourths of black Ohioans said police protection was deployed more effectively in some neighborhoods than others.
The poll is unique because few pollsters focus on black voters specifically and when they do, it’s almost always a national poll. Lawmakers hope these insights will drive policy discussions moving forward.
Black voters have been a critical voting bloc for Democratic voters, but the poll showed some African-American Ohioans support more conservative stances.
Of those polled:
• 53% say they would rather protect than restrict access to guns
• 70% want more options than just single-payer health insurance
• 61% want taxpayers to pay for private schools and charter schools in addition to public schools and
• 60% want smaller government with fewer taxes.
“Relatively few African Americans will identify as Republicans. A few more will identify as conservatives,” said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute. But the polls shows many support some traditionally Republican positions. “That black community is not monolithic.”
Howse said the poll’s results aren’t out of step with policies black lawmakers support in Columbus. Take gun control, for example.
“I believe that everyone should be able to own a gun. There is no qualm. There is no disagreement on that. The issue is when you have the debate on ‘stand your ground,’” Howse said. “In the African American community, we understand in this legal system, it is not blind, the results and the impacts of policies like that are harmful to black Ohioans.”
When asked about the top issues facing Ohio, those polled didn’t point to the oft-repeated Democratic positions of healthcare and the middle class. They cited as key issues crime, drugs and access to more jobs.
But black Ohioans did support Democrats’ position on abortion (76% said they support a woman’s right to choose an abortion) and the environment (75% said strict environmental laws were worth the cost.)
The poll was conducted between December and January. It cost $55,000, which was split between the University of Akron’s endowment money and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation.