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Here are the most frequently Googled political questions in Ohio for the past week

October 3, 2018

Here are the most frequently Googled political questions in Ohio for the past week

CLEVELAND, Ohio — As we’ve previously written, we are working with Google to inform our coverage of the November election in Ohio. 

One part of that project is tracking the most frequently asked questions Ohioans are searching for each week.

Those questions are often similar.

But we are looking out for changes, including new questions or new top-searched issues, especially as the election grows nearer and voters start paying closer attention.

Here are some observations on the top questions from the past week, ending Oct. 1.

The midterms 

As a political reporter, I feel qualified to tackle the top-searched questions about the midterms.

The long-reigning top question is “When are the midterm elections?” (They are on Nov. 6 in Ohio and across the country.) 

But the others are starting to grow more specific. They are:

- “What are the midterm elections?” (They are the federal elections that occur two years after each presidential election.) 

- “Who is running in the midterm elections?” (Nationwide, all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 U.S. senators are up for re-election. In Ohio, all 16 congressional representatives are running for re-election, as is Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. All of Ohio’s statewide executive offices also are up for grabs, including governor and state attorney general. Plus, two Ohio Supreme Court seats are in play.) 

The fifth top question is, “How will Republicans do in the midterms?” 

This is a new addition to the top-questions list, although it displaced a similar question: “What happens if the Democrats win the midterm elections.”

No one can predict the future. But to try to answer the question, we turn to FiveThirtyEight.com, the polling website. Using a mix of polling data and expert opinions, it projects Republicans have a 74 percent chance of losing control of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

This would require that the Democrats flip a net 23 seats currently held by Republicans. Let’s drill down a little more.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political news site we like, is tracking 106 competitive House races.

Of those, they rate 13 House seats currently held by Republicans as “likely” Democratic wins or better. Another 31 competitive races, 29 of which are held by Republicans, are viewed as “toss-ups.” One Democratic seat, Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District, is likely to flip Republican because of redistricting there.

So, if they keep all their own seats, Democrats would have to win 11 of the 29 “toss-up” Republican seats to take control of the House. 

Only one toss-up seat is in Ohio. That’s GOP Rep. Steve Chabot, from the Cincinnati area, who has a tough Democratic challenger in Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. The uncharacteristic closeness of that race has led to big spending on ads and political canvassing from both campaigns there, as well as from outside Republican and Democratic groups. But Chabot led Pureval by 9 points in a recent poll.

As for the Senate, FiveThirtyEight projects Republicans have a 73 percent chance of keeping the Senate. Democrats would have to flip just two Republican-held Senate seats to gain control. But because many of the seats up for grabs this year are represented by Democratic senators in states Donald Trump won in 2016, like Missouri, North Dakota and Montana, it’s viewed as a tough road for them.  

One “Trump state” Democrat is Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. But Brown’s chances of being re-elected widely are viewed as safe, in large part because polling consistently has shown him with a double-digit lead over his Republican challenger, Rep. Jim Renacci.

So in short, while it seems likely right that Democrats will win the House while Republicans keep the Senate, it’s a realistic possibility that Republicans could keep control, or that Democrats win control of the entire Congress. 

Ohio’s state-level races get less national attention. But the governor’s race between Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Rich Cordray has polled very closely, while the down-ticket races likewise have all been toss-ups, too.

Top political issues

Once again, health care was the top-searched political issue in Ohio last week. This has been reflected by traditional polling as well, although “jobs and the economy” often ranks highly in polls. For some reason, Google’s system doesn’t capture this.

When health care has been knocked off the top spot, it’s because of an event in the news. For example, during the week of Sept. 11, 2018, the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were temporarily the most frequently searched topic.

Wondering what people are asking about when they search about health care? Here are the top questions:

1. How do refugees receive health care?

2. Where does the US rank in health care?

3. How does Canada have free health care?

4. What is a health care practitioner?

5. Who is responsible for health care?

Three of the other top-searched issues were also health-care related — Medicare, Medicaid and mental health. These questions, as usual, were practical searches like “How do I sign up for Medicare/Medicaid?” or “What is mental health?” Immigration sometimes appears in the top five but, not for the past two weeks.

The fifth was the United Nations, displacing the Sept. 11 attacks as the fifth-most searched issue. This likely was due to Trump’s Sept. 25 appearance at the UN headquarters in New York. 

Top questions Ohioans searched for on this topic included “Where is the United Nations,” “Why did the UN laugh at Trump” and “What did Trump say at United Nations?”

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