These Suburban Ohio Women Say they Aren’t Showing up For Trump in Polls, But Plan to Show Up On Election Day
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One Cincinnati family is keeping a close count of the political signs dotting the front yards of their suburban neighborhood. The signs supporting President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are of special interest to the father and son, who tally up the number of signs for each candidate while driving around their neighborhood and report the numbers to the mother.
With one week remaining until Election Day, suburban voters—particularly suburban women—are of special interest to both campaigns and could be a deciding factor in the presidential election. Trump has made countless pleas to suburban women this election cycle in an effort to retain their support, and while recent polling has suggested that the voting bloc is shifting toward Biden, the sign counts by Heidi Arvay’s family suggest otherwise.
Arvay, a mother of three children under age 15, told Newsweek that her husband and son’s latest tallies suggest that support for Trump far outweighs support for Biden.
“To sum it up, it’s at least 2-to-1, if not 3-to-1,” Arvay said of the signs. “In our kind of suburban area, it does not feel that there is a shift toward Biden in the mindset.”
Arvay’s suburban neighborhood is representative of a few key variables that will be essential to the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election.
First, there’s Ohio — a swing state in which recent polls suggest Trump has a narrow lead, though he won the state by about eight points in 2016.
Next, there’s the suburban vote, which recent polling has also suggested is shifting away from Trump and toward Biden. Though additional polling has suggested that Trump is losing suburban women in his fight for re-election, many of his supporters in that demographic who live in the key state of Ohio said their support for Trump has never been stronger.
A ‘deja vu-type situation’
For some Ohio women, the recent results of polls conducted among suburban voters feel similar to the 2016 polls that indicated Hillary Clinton would beat Trump in a landslide victory.
Arvay, who operates an independent business from her home in Cincinnati, said predictions that Biden has a strong lead feel “like a deja vu-type situation.”
“It feels incorrect and it feels a little surreal,” Arvay told Newsweek.
Arvay said she is supporting Trump’s bid for re-election after voting for him in 2016, although she didn’t expect him to win four years ago.
“He didn’t feel supported then,” Arvay said. “Right now, it feels very similar to what was in the air in 2016 from the media in terms of downplaying Trump’s support.”
There are many factors at play this election season, but one variable that polls suggest has turned in Biden’s favor is suburban women who are frustrated by Trump’s behavior and eager to return to a sense of political normalcy.
According to one poll published last month by The Hill and HarrisX, Biden was leading Trump among suburban voters by seven points, and another recent poll conducted by Grinnell College found Biden leading among suburban voters by an even larger 23 percent margin. The Grinnell poll also said that Biden was leading among suburban women by more than 30 points.
Trump’s suburban problem
The Republican Party’s concern about retaining suburban women voters likely contributed to Trump’s direct appeal to them during campaign events held over the summer and in early fall. During a campaign rally this month in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Trump made a request of suburban women voters: “Do me a favor, suburban women. Would you please like me?” Trump has repeatedly said that he is actively working to keep the suburbs safe, a point he reiterated during the Johnstown rally. “I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?” he told them.
When Trump was asked about those statements during a recent interview with 60 Minutes, he said the media has misleadingly reported on his “begging” for suburban women to support him.
“I say jokingly, ‘Suburban women, you should love me. Because I’m giving you security and I got rid of the worst regulations,'” which he clarified to mean the regulations that would allow low-income housing into suburban areas.
He also said that he doesn’t trust polling that suggests he is falling behind Biden among suburban women.
“I doubt it,” he said.
In Ohio, the uncertainty surrounding how the suburban vote is leaning is of particular importance because of the state’s role as a campaign battleground. Polling averages compiled by FiveThirtyEight suggest that Trump holds a slim lead over Biden. One article published by the Times earlier this week focused on a group of women who voted for Trump in 2016 but are now actively organizing to rally support behind Biden, but those efforts don’t account for many Ohio women whose political views still lean right and who believe support for Trump runs deep.
Sarah Fortin, who works as an insurance agent in Cincinnati and has three children under 10, said her first reaction to hearing about the suburban voter poll results was to question how the data was collected.
“I’m wondering what cities they’re in. Because it doesn’t seem like they’re in my city,” Fortin told Newsweek.
Fortin said she grew up in a right-wing family but has always voted for third-party candidates. She decided to break that tradition for the first time this election cycle to cast a vote for Trump.
“As we’ve seen the past few months, what has happened around the country in those more liberal cities—it worries me as a mother,” Fortin said. “As much as I would like to support those smaller third-party candidates who agree more so with how I believe, I kind of tried to decide between the two major candidates this year.”
What is Trump’s appeal?
In Fortin’s case, she said she has been happy with the economy during Trump’s first term, appreciates that Trump is not a career politician and was impressed by his willingness to meet with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. Avery said the economy also is a factor in her continued support for Trump, and she added that she also likes Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message and appreciates his campaign’s focus on American-made products.
Trump’s calls to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S. also is a significant factor for Angela Phillips, a second-generation business owner who works in manufacturing.
“I really feel like he understands what the country needs from an international standpoint,” Phillips told Newsweek. “It’s long overdue that we refresh things like trade deals with foreign countries, and that we get more of a level playing field, I guess, for our businesses and for our country.”
Phillips said she grew up in a Democratic household but hasn’t supported a Democratic presidential candidate since she voted for former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988. She began the last election cycle as a Ted Cruz supporter but shifted to Trump’s camp following a primary debate in 2015.
“At that time, I can say not that many people that I knew were Trump supporters at all,” Phillips said.
Trump’s sometimes-silent support
Phillips told Newsweek that she was hesitant in 2016 to vocalize her support for Trump in public, but that has changed entirely over the last four years.
“I’m more comfortable today, definitely, than I was in 2016. In 2016, I was almost petrified to mention that I was pro-Trump at the time,” she said. “I definitely see more people in my group that are voting for him this season.”
While she said some of those individuals chose not to vote in the last election because neither Trump nor Clinton appealed to them, concerns about the Democratic Party shifting too far to the left during this election cycle inspired many of them to vote this year. Even so, she said there are some exceptions.
“The women that I know that are not voting for him and probably will stay home because they don’t like Biden either are ones who are more pro-choice and want to make sure that women don’t get restrictions on that—that we don’t go backwards,” Phillips said.
Fortin seemed to agree that the abortion debate is weighing on the women she knows who are hesitant to support Trump. Another controversial issue that she said has given some women pause is Trump’s behavior on social media and the sexual assault allegations he has faced.
Though Fortin said both have been points of concern for her—”Ivanka should just change his password,” she joked about Trump’s Twitter usage—neither issue will dissuade her from supporting the president’s re-election bid.
“I was not impressed when those things came out,” Fortin said of the sexual assault and harassment allegations against Trump. “It’s kind of disheartening, especially when you’re a mother of girls.”
Referencing some of the “locker room talk” that Trump has been associated with, Fortin said it was disappointing but not entirely shocking to hear Trump use it.
“I guess it’s surprising to hear it from a presidential candidate, but it’s not surprising to hear it come out of a man’s mouth,” she said.
Another voter in Cincinnati who wished to remain anonymous said she initially was unsure about Trump but decided to vote for him in 2016 once he won the Republican presidential nomination. As someone who said she is a strong supporter of the military, advocates for keeping jobs in the U.S. and wants more religious freedom, her support for the president has only grown in the last four years.
“President Trump has done more for the religious freedom movement than any other president, certainly, in my lifetime,” she told Newsweek.
Though the anonymous voter said she is a dedicated Trump supporter, part of the reason she hesitated to use her name was because she was concerned about potential retaliation. Some of the Trump signs she put in her front yard were recently stolen, and interactions with some of her neighbors have grown tense.
“I think there’s so many people that are being quiet because of the possible retaliation,” she told Newsweek.
Fortin, Phillips and Arvay said they have not experienced any vandalism, but Fortin said some of her neighbors expressed hesitancy to put Trump signs in their yards. Each of the three women said they feel comfortable discussing politics within their trusted circles but approach the subject carefully when around strangers.
“I’ve tried not to get into too many active discussions with politics with people I’m not totally close with,” Arvay said, adding that social media is one area she avoids when it comes to political discourse. “There is not always tolerance these days if you disagree.”
According to the anonymous voter, about 90 percent of the political signs in her neighborhood are pro-Trump. Phillips, who said she has traveled throughout the state in recent weeks, said she estimates 75 percent of the signs she has seen indicated support for Trump, and Arvay said her husband and son have been keeping a running tally of the presidential signs in their neighborhood, as well, with Trump signs appearing at least twice as often as Biden signs.
While Fortin said she believes the election will be close, Arvay, Phillips and the anonymous voter all said they believe Trump will win—and none of the four women believe that his support has dwindled.
“I feel like he has what he had in 2016 and then some,” Phillips said. “In the people that I’m exposed to, a lot more are proudly coming out and saying, ‘No, no, no—this is my president and I really appreciate what he’s done for the country.’ He may not be right on 100 percent of everything, but he’s got an A as far as I’m concerned.”
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