The sense that political discussions between everyday people have become both more frequent and more contentious over the years was a common theme echoed by participants during the Southwestern Your Voice Ohio discussion group.
James Porter, 82, of Franklin, a small town between Dayton and Cincinnati, has the perspective of a voter who’s cast a ballot in 15 presidential elections.
“This is the most talked about, most vicious cycle of elections that I’ve ever seen or heard of,” he said. “I’ve never been through anything like this. You can just almost feel the hate … People are just more up in arms.”
Porter said the number one difference he sees between the past few presidential elections and those more distant is that voters are taking a “more visible” stance lately. He said his neighborhood is the perfect example. Porter lives on an approximately 2-mile-long street with well-spaced houses and big yards. On Oct. 13, the street contained at least 32 pro-Donald Trump signs, flags or banners; two signs that said “just be kind,” a half-dozen local election signs and one pro-Joe Biden sign.
Porter installed his “Trump 2020” sign on Oct. 13. Porter was one of the last handful of residents to not take a public stance on the presidential election in their yard. Porter said he’d previously only put political signs in his yard for local elections.
In contrast, during the dialogue, Porter recalled a story from “many years ago” that illustrates how Americans were previously discouraged from talking about “politics, sex or religion.”
Porter said he’s concerned about polarization in the country today but he doesn’t know what the solution is, a common view among the dialogue participants. He said his social circles will make it through the election.
“My friends, my relatives, most of them gonna vote one way and some gonna vote another, but we’re all still going to go to church together,” he said. “And we’re going to go to that family reunion together and we don’t let (political differences) bog us down. And that’s going to happen this year.”
Porter prays there is a “clear-cut winner” in the presidential election “no matter which one it is” because he fears the fallout if the election is in doubt.
Jordan Laird was among seven journalists who participated with Ohioans in October in Your Voice Ohio online dialogues to gain understanding of concerns people have in the 2020 election. She is a reporter for the Dayton Daily News and can be emailed at email@example.com.
This is one in a series of stories on issues Ohioans say are most important in this election year. More than 50 news outlets are collaborating in the project under the umbrella of Your Voice Ohio, the nation’s largest sustained, statewide news media collaborative. In five years, Your Voice Ohio has brought more than 100 journalists together with more than 1,300 Ohioans for discussions on addiction, the economy and elections. Your Voice Ohio is managed and coordinated by the Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic engagement organization. The project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and Facebook. The Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes designs and facilitates the dialogues and digital forums. Retired Akron Beacon Journal managing editor Doug Oplinger directs the media work and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.