Ohio: Contrasting Polls

By Jim Ellis

state-of-ohio-mapNov. 1, 2018 — The Buckeye State of Ohio is viewed as one of the country’s quintessential swing states. In 2016, however, the state exceeded polling and even Republican expectations in their presidential vote, as President Trump won a decisive 52-44 percent victory over Hillary Clinton.

Some suggested the Trump vote was an indication that the state could be moving more definitively to the political right, but new surveys suggest the Buckeye electorate is returning to its previous swing vote history.

Still, Ohio proves a reliable national political barometer. In both 2008 and 2012, the electorate here voted for President Obama after twice after backing President George W. Bush in his two elections. The state previously favored President Bill Clinton in his two successful national campaigns. In fact, the last time Ohioans failed to vote for the winning presidential candidate came in 1960 when the state awarded its electoral votes to Republican Richard Nixon in his national losing effort against John F. Kennedy.

Two new polls were released this week that paint different pictures of the Ohio electorate’s current state. Some of the results are curious to the point of questioning the polling reliability or not being able to adequately determine how the governor’s race will end and failing to understand the wide discrepancy in US Senate polling projections.

Cleveland’s Baldwin Wallace University and Emerson College of Massachusetts released new Ohio polls this week that, combined, yield contrasting pictures of how the state will vote come next Tuesday. The 538 election statistics organization rates Emerson College as a B+ pollster. Baldwin Wallace is not rated because they have not conducted a sufficient number of previous polls to develop an adequate reliability rating.

The Baldwin Wallace data (Oct. 19-27; 1,051 likely Ohio voters, automated) finds Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) topping Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) by an overwhelming 51-32 percent polling margin. But Emerson College (Oct. 26-28; 566 likely Ohio voters) finds a much different result. This organization sees Sen. Brown holding a much closer 49-43 percent edge.

Both polling universities see the critically important governor’s race as close, but with different leaders. Baldwin Wallace finds a virtual tie in the open statewide campaign with attorney general and former US senator, Mike DeWine (R), holding the slightest 39.4-38.8 percent lead over former attorney general and ex-Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director, Richard Cordray (D).

Yet, Emerson arrives at a different gubernatorial result. They see Cordray holding a 49-46 percent advantage as the candidates wrap up their formal campaigning.

As has been speculated for months, Sen. Brown has a clear path toward re-election even though the size of his lead comes into question, while the race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. John Kasich is still very much unresolved.

From a federal redistricting perspective, Ohio is one of the nation’s most important states. Republicans dominated the 2010-11 redistricting process, leading to clear control of both state legislative chambers and a 12R-4D split in the congressional delegation. Cordray winning the governor’s race could drastically change the 2021 redistricting process.

Through Oct. 30, the United States Election Project administered by the University of Florida finds 737,157 votes already being cast through the early voting process. Now over halfway through the pre-election voting period, 85.2 percent of the entire previous early midterm voting number (2014) has been equaled. This means 23.4 percent of the total 2014 midterm turnout figure has already been reached with time remaining. Ohio’s process allows for absentee ballots to be submitted through Election Day, and in-person early voting to conclude on Nov. 5. In the previous midterm, 27.5 percent of the total vote came through early voting.

Whether the early voting numbers suggest an above average midterm turnout is still unclear, though the current rate of return indicates that more votes will be cast in 2018 than in 2014, while remaining far below presidential participation levels.

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