Your Voice Ohio: About this project

The most recent round of Your Voice Ohio media dialogues asked Ohioans to consider how they want their communities, the state and country to look after the election. The reasons for the questions grow out of two sources of information: A statewide poll showing 62 percent of Ohioans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and 15 dialogues held since July in which Ohioans expressed a desire to get past the election and pandemic and to focus on long-term plans to improve life – with less polarization and mistrust.

Your Voice Ohio is the country’s largest sustained, state media collaborative with more than 50 print, online and broadcast members.The mission is to bring journalists closer to Ohio’s diverse voices so that Ohioans see life experiences and concerns like their own represented in democratic practices. Your Voice Ohio is managed and coordinated by the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic engagement organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota, with representation in Akron.

Well over 1,300 Ohioans and 100 journalists have come together since 2015 in conversations about addiction, the economy, local and national elections and the pandemic. Nineteen news outlets have contributed content to the Election 2020 project for distribution to all members.

Your Voice Ohio civic engagement events and digital forums are designed and facilitated by the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes. Polling has been conducted in partnership with the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

Funding comes from The Democracy Fund, the James S. and John L. Knight Foundation and Facebook.

Five Ohios

For the Your Voice Ohio 2020 Election listening project, the state’s 88 counties were divided into five regions identified by John Green, emeritus director of the Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron, as having political and demographic similarities.

How participants were selected

Six people were recruited to participate with three journalists in each regional dialogue designed and facilitated by Kyle Bozentko and Sarah Atwood from the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes, a St. Paul-based non-partisan, non-profit research organization.

There was an attempt to make each dialogue demographically representative, though that was problematic in some regions, particularly in the Southeast where there were broadband challenges. Overall, the dialogues were representative of Ohio, based on Census data obtained by former Akron Beacon Journal data reporter David Knox.

A pool of about 1,000 volunteers was created through invitations published by Ohio news outlets and from advertisements on social media. To encourage a diverse group of volunteers, $125 was offered to those who answered basic demographic questions, participated in a test call, and then completed the two-hour online dialogue.

For the conversations, participants were granted anonymity with the understanding that what they said could be used in news stories without their names. They were asked afterward if they were willing to be quoted by name and participate in a follow-up conversation with a reporter. Most agreed.

Participating journalists were recruited from the more than 50 Your Voice Ohio news outlets. One reporter attended all five sessions and wrote the central narrative, a regional reporter in each helped identify themes and nuances. A third is guiding the Your Voice Ohio journalism and has attended all sessions since 2016.