Eye on Education

MAP: How Issue 2 in 2011 Helped Obama Win Ohio in 2012

In the days after Ohio voters voted “no” on collective bargaining referendum Issue 2, some speculated the defeat of Issue 2 could help President Barack Obama win a second term. The theory was that voters riled up by an attack on public-employee unions would flock to Obama, and that the campaign organization that defeated Issue 2 could be put to use defeating Mitt Romney.

Did that happen? Take a look.

Results 2012: Obama vs. Romney

Results 2011: Issue 2 Referendum on Collective Bargaining

This map shows the results from the 2012 presidential election. The darker blue the county, the more heavily voters favored Barack Obama. The darker red the county, the more heavily voters favored Mitt Romney. This map shows the results from the 2011 referendum on collective bargaining. The darker green the county, the more heavily voters rejected Issue 2, turning down attempts to limit public employees’ collective bargaining. The darker yellow the county, the more heavily voters approved Issue 2′s collective bargaining reform.

Yan Lu / StateImpact | Source: Associated Press | Download Data

Yan Lu / StateImpact | Source: Ohio Secretary of State | Download Data

As a Matter of Fact…

As it turns out, Issue 2 helped the Obama campaign. But it didn’t actually decide who won the White House.

The organization built up during the Issue 2 campaign helped support the Obama campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort and fired up some volunteers doing the actual vote-getting. (Perhaps just as important was the organization unions began building up after the 2010 election.)

But few voters picked Obama over Romney (or vice versa) because of Issue 2, voter interviews and polling suggest. In fact, AFL-CIO election-eve polling found Ohio union members liking Obama about as much as they did in November 2008, way before Issue 2.

University of Dayton political scientist Daniel Birdsong says, “I don’t think [Issue 2] was on the top of people’s minds, but i think because of the repeal election campaign it got activists engaged and brought a lot of organizing to the state earlier than it may have been otherwise.”

Note: The Issue 2 of 2011 is completely different from the Issue 2 on the 2012 ballot. The 2011 Issue 2 had to do with collective bargaining for public employees. The 2012 Issue 2 had to do with how legislative districts are drawn.


  • Bill from Cleveland

    “…Issue 2 helped the Obama campaign.”


    While the maps are elegant, the maps don’t show causation.

    The Maps show correlation, a common set of values among counties’ voters.

    • M_Bloom

      I’m not sure the maps even show that common set of values. Look at how many counties voted against Issue 2 but for Romney, for example. If Issue 2 helped, it seemed to be more on the edges of the statewide GOTV/organizing effort than (in general) in a direct, emotional “I don’t like Issue 2 so I’m voting for Obama” way.

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