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Election 2012: Battleground Report

50-Plus Voters and the Economy

What Ohioans think about political promises to create jobs and boost incomes

"I think part of it's just the blue-collar mentality of the state," said Bob Fiala, 59, an architect in Willoughby. "They just have this attitude of 'work hard, be loyal, show up to work every day, and you'll get through somehow. You get a job, you'll have it your whole life.' And that's being taken away from them.''

Kirek was seeking steady work as he visited a career fair in Independence. He plans to vote Republican, since he doesn't like "where the country is." But he has little hope that either candidate can make things better. "They can't really relate," Kirek said.

At each of Vince's job interviews, she senses that the young managers are responding to her age. "When they look at you and they see a little bit of gray hair, they see you differently," Vince said.

Ohio skews a bit older than the U.S. population at large, and older workers were hit disproportionately hard by the downturn, said Suzanne Kunkel, director of the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Oxford.

Still, there are signs of hope: rebounding auto and steel industries, an oil-shale boomlet and two new casinos with hundreds of new jobs. "There's still a lot of unemployment and underemployment," said Patricia Dougan, 61, a staff attorney at Community Legal Aid in Youngstown. But "there's a resurgence going on. You really get a sense of pride when you drive into this city."

And older Ohioans are retiring later and making up a larger chunk of the workforce. "We're at the very beginning of this sweet spot of aging, the changing economy, workforce needs and the new [attitude toward] aging," Kunkel said. "People think, 'I've got quite a few good years left in me.'

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