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Ohio listings tinged with politics

Two new ways to measure the quality of life in Ohio are tinged with politics.

The Ohio Cultural Index, a poll by Ohio Right to Life, is a quarterly survey of 800 randomly selected adults. When it was introduced by the anti-abortion group in June, it was touted as a way to explore the swiftly changing factors that are influencing Ohioans’ attitudes.

The poll seeks to gauge public opinion on abortion, women’s health, morality, ethics, family as well as issues unrelated to its mission, such as government influence, public schools, churches and the entertainment industry.

“Our culture is markedly different today than it was just 15 years ago. And it continues to evolve,” executive director Mike Gonidakis wrote in a letter of explanation. “Things considered counter-culture a few years ago are deemed mainstream today. A myriad of influences continuously place pressure on our families and communities forcing change.”

Another effort rolled out this summer, and now being promoted in statewide stops by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, is called “Better Lives, Better Ohio.” Through this effort, Brunner’s office has compiled an array of county-by-county data onto a single Web link accessible through her state Web site.

“What if we could take information that is collected about our state in regards to important factors that affect the lives of so many and we house them in one location?” Brunner said in rolling out the effort. “Making this information readily available is important for people who are working to make our state a better place to live, work and play.”

Creating the index of quality-of-life information was among her campaign promises in 2006. The index touches on natural resources, the economy, health care, crime, census data and citizen involvement.

Could it be that Right to Life’s poll benefits traditional Republican constituencies by promoting a values-leaning agenda, while Brunner’s initiative steers traditional Democratic constituencies —including college students and nonprofits who are encouraged to mine the data for research —to her Web site in an election year?

In his introductory letter, Gonidakis made no secret of his group’s intention to use the cultural index to bolster the anti-abortion movement’s political position.

He wrote that it would “provide us with a powerful tool to gain and keep the attention of our elected leaders. While those pushing radical agendas may find sympathetic ears in the halls of power, an informed pro-life community will be better able to rebuff their public policy influences.”

As she fights a tough primary battle for U.S. Senate against fellow Democrat Lee Fisher, Brunner is now centering a series of appearances around the state on her Better Lives, Better Ohio effort.

Though she has far less money and political backing than Fisher, the initiative could be providing her a helpful tool to speak about quality of life issues around the state and drive traffic to her state Web site ahead of the election.

Julie Carr Smyth is a correspondent for the Ohio Associated Press.