Agency Directors Predict Low-Income Residents Influence On Presidential Results

By
Taylor Mirfendereski

Dateline
Updated Tue, Dec 18, 2012 10:58 pm

UPDATE 12:07 A.M. Three Southeast Ohio counties that topped the list for the state's lowest median household income between 2006 and 2010 have voted consistently with their past political trends. 

Athens County, which had the state's lowest median income, voted for President Barack Obama by 66 percent. The county has voted Democratic in each election but one since 18 year olds first got the right to vote in the 1972 Presidential race. 

Adams County, the county with the second lowest median income in the state, voted for Republican challenger Mitt Romney by 62 percent. The county also voted Republican in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. 

Scioto County, the county with the third lowest median income in the state, voted for Mitt Romney by 50 percent. The county also voted Republican in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. 


Job and Family Services directors in three Southeast Ohio counties that top the list for the state's lowest median household income are making predictions about how their county's low income levels will impact the Presidential election.

Athens County Job and Family Services director Jack Frech said he does not expect the income level to impact Athens County results.  

"Neither party and neither political candidate has really put forward any platform that would address poverty," said Frech. "We think that poor people will vote. We absolutely think they will vote. We're hoping they do. We're encouraging them to do that, but I don't think they're doing so because neither party has really gone out of their way to address their problems.” 

Athens County, which has voted Democratic in each presidential election since 1976, had the lowest median income of $31,559 between 2006 and 2010. Adam County, which voted Republican in 2008, had the second lowest median income at $32,791. Scioto County, which voted Republican in 2008, followed closely in third, with an annual median income of $32,812. 

"I think what's important to [low income residents] is just surviving these days. 'How do I keep a roof over my head? How do I put food in my mouth?  How do I put a car on the road? I can't find a job.' They don't have the luxury or the time to consume political issues," said Frech.  

Sue Fulton, director of the Adams County Department of Job and Family Services, said she thinks low income residents in her county had one big thing in mind as they voted Tuesday and weeks before. 

"Employment. So many people are looking for jobs and there aren't many jobs in our county," she said. 

She added that Job and Family Services clients are concerned about budget cuts to social service programs, and are in need of transportation services.

"If there were jobs, the second thing is they need reliable transportation to be able to get to and from a job. That's because we don't have the resources [in our county]," she said. 

In Scioto County, Department of Job and Family Services director Paige Robbins said most of her clients are also concerned about finding a job and likely voted for the candidate who intends to create the most jobs in the county.

She commented about the diversity of the low-income residents in her area, adding that it is near impossible to determine whether or not this large demographic would impact the election results. 

"I've worked here for over 24 years, and I've met all different kinds of people who walk through our doors," said Robbins. "We have people who have generational poverty, who are newly unemployed. We have people who are both educated and both uneducated. We have people who are able-bodied and disabled." 

Meanwhile in Athens, Frech added that he doesn't think the county's low median income is correlated with its historically Democratic voting patterns. 

"Athens County does have a very high poverty rate, but so do surrounding counties, and most of these counties have historically voted Republican," he said. "In general, the majority of counties in the Appalachian area have been more likely to vote Republican than Democrat. They all have a higher percentage of poor people than do much the rest of the state.” 

Athens County was one of just five Southeast Ohio counties to vote Democratic in 2008, giving Barack Obama a 35 point win. The county had the second largest winning percentage for Obama in the state. 

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