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Can Campaign Trail Chaos Disengage Ohio Voters?

Campaign trail disorder can impact voter decisions. (M. Kuhlman)
Campaign trail disorder can impact voter decisions. (M. Kuhlman)
March 14, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Arrests, cancelled rallies and heated exchanges among candidates plagued the presidential campaign over the weekend.

And one political expert says the incidents can have an impact on the choices voters make in Tuesday's primary in Ohio.

Dan Birdsong, a political science lecturer at the University of Dayton, says the media reports can influence voter perception. He says a focus on the disruptions instead of meaningful issues can disengage voters.

"People throwing punches and that sort of shenanigans that are going on, if that becomes the coverage, then it turns things on its head,” he states. “The story's not about policy, it's more about the uglier side of things. So, people can see this and be turned off by the process."

When there are several candidates running, as is the situation in the Republican race, Birdsong admits it is a challenge to ensure coverage is fair.

And if a front-runner receives more media attention, he says it not only builds his or her name recognition, but voters learn less about other candidates.

John Kasich, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton all made weekend campaign stops in Ohio. Clinton then faced off against opponent Bernie Sanders last night in Columbus at a town hall event at Ohio State University.

Sanders has scheduled stops in Cleveland and Mansfield today.

Birdsong explains such last minute events are not aimed at finding new support.

"If you can change a couple of minds or bring some along the way, that's added benefits,” he explains. “But really they're trying to make sure that their supporters, that they are confident are going to be turning out, do in fact turn out."

Ohio has a modified open primary, which Birdsong says could allow a Democrat to select a Republican candidate. He adds that, along with high turnout, can have a significant impact on Tuesday’s primary.

"It may be benefiting someone like Sanders who's benefited from higher turnout in states that you have either an open primary or a modified open primary where people can switch parties,” he states. “And Trump has done better in open primaries as well with higher turnout."

Ohio's Republican primary holds special significance because it's winner-take-all, where the candidate with the most votes gets all of the delegates.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH