By: Steve Bennish, Dayton Daily News
A new national public opinion poll puts the presidential election fight in Ohio in perspective with results showing that voters see creating jobs in manufacturing as critical to rebuild the economy.
President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney are in a slugfest over issues like offshoring, policy toward China and strategies to re-industrialize – a fight that’s caught fire in Ohio, a key state in the election. Federal data show the state lost 3,500 factories in 10 years and at the height of the recession was down 600,000 jobs.
But the sector remains a powerhouse. A new assessment from the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association says manufacturing accounts for 17 percent, or $80 billion, of state gross domestic product, and has a total payroll of $33 billion – greater than any other industry sector. It’s still down from $84 billion in 2008.
Scott Paul, executive director for survey sponsor Alliance for American Manufacturing, said results were shared first with the Obama and Romney campaigns, which snapped them up.
The Alliance is a non-partisan, business-labor partnership supported by the manufacturing industry and the United Steelworkers.
“The poll adds considerable context to the charges and countercharges we are hearing on the campaign trail,” Paul said. “The top of mind issue for voters is not only jobs, but manufacturing jobs and Made in America.”
The poll, conducted between June 28 and July 2 by a bipartisan team of Republican and Democratic pollsters, had focus groups in Columbus, Orlando, and Phoenix. Pollsters were the Mellman Group and North Star Opinion Research.
By a sizable margin, the 1,200 likely general election voters polled rate manufacturing as the industry “most important to the overall strength of the American economy” and support a national strategy to restore America’s global leadership.
Enacting strong Buy American provisions for public works won large majorities of Republican, 87 percent, and Democratic, 91 percent, and Independent, 87 percent, voters.
As for outsourcing and charges of China’s trade cheating, more than two-thirds said that China’s violations of international trade rules cost U.S. jobs, and 62 percent said Washington needs to get tougher on China even if a trade war results.
Eighty-three percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable view of companies that outsource jobs to China. In contrast, voters maintain favorable views of goods manufactured in the U.S. with 97 percent favorable.
A majority of voters, 56 percent, no longer see the U.S. as having the world’s strongest economy, and fewer than 25 percent think federal leadership “is doing a great deal to help enforce a level playing field for U.S. manufacturers,” the poll said.
But 88 percent of voters believe that it’s possible for America to have the strongest economy, and 92 percent believe that it is important for the U.S. to regain that position.