Trump, Kasich in Tight Ohio Race

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest Ohio poll finds a very close race on the Republican side- with Donald Trump slightly ahead but perhaps more reasons within the numbers to think that John Kasich will end up winning the state.

Trump leads with 38% to 35% for Kasich, 15% for Ted Cruz, and just 5% for Marco Rubio. The race is pretty fluid though, with only 69% of voters saying they’re committed to their current choice, and 31% saying they might change their minds between now and next Tuesday.

If voters do change their minds- especially supporters of Cruz and Rubio who appear to have little chance of being competitive in the state- Kasich is likely to be the beneficiary. Kasich leads Trump 55/40 if voters had to choose just between the two of them. Rubio voters move to Kasich 75/16 over Trump, Cruz voters do so 69/25, and undecideds would pick him 54/11 if Kasich and Trump ended up being the two candidates they chose between. Kasich is also by far the most broadly popular of the candidates in Ohio with a 70/22 favorability rating- only Trump at 48/44 is also on positive ground among the remaining candidates. If more strategic voting happens in the next week, Kasich is likely to be the beneficiary.

Kasich leads Trump with both moderates (43/39) and ‘somewhat conservative’ (39/36) voters. Trump is ahead because he has 40% with ‘very conservative’ voters to 25% for Cruz with Kasich coming in third at 23%. There’s also a gender split in the race with Kasich up 36/33 among women but Trump making up for it with a 42/34 advantage among men.

The bottom has really fallen out on Marco Rubio’s image. For much of the year he’s been among the best liked of the Republican candidates, even if he wasn’t voters’ first choice. Now he’s the least popular candidate, with only 33% of voters seeing him favorable to 51% who have an unfavorable opinion. Even when you combine first and second choices Rubio’s still in a distant last place with 22% to 55% for Kasich, 46% for Trump, and 28% for Cruz. 

One of the biggest stories in the GOP Presidential race last week was Mitt Romney’s big anti-Trump speech but we find Romney is very unpopular with the Republican base and that the speech thus likely didn’t do much to hurt Trump. In Ohio just 33% of GOP voters see Romney favorably, to 50% with a negative opinion. In fact if voters had to pick just between Romney and Trump to be their candidate this fall, Trump wins out 52/36. That’s a wider margin than Trump gets head to head against either Cruz (47/41) or Rubio (51/41).

A piece of particularly good news for Trump in this poll is that he does have the most committed supporters. 80% of his voters say that they’ll ‘definitely’ vote for him compared to 71% for Cruz, 58% for Kasich, and 52% for Rubio. Trump has always done well among voters who make up their minds earlier, and that’s reflected in this finding. It might also mean he doesn’t have much room to grow though, raising the possibility of Kasich overtaking him.

In an interview with Alex Jones last month Trump flirted with the conspiracy theory that Antonin Scalia didn’t die naturally, and we find that only 52% of Trump’s voters do think he died of natural causes compared to 21% who think he was murdered and 27% who are not sure. By comparison 64% of Rubio, 66% of Cruz, and 68% of Kasich voters think Scalia died naturally. There are a couple bridges even Trump voters won’t cross though. Only 6% approve of the KKK to 85% who disapprove (it’s 3/89 with Republicans overall) and less than 1% have a favorable opinion of Benito Mussolini to 70% with an unfavorable one (it’s 1/75 with Republicans overall).

On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton has a pretty solid lead with 56% to 35% for Bernie Sanders. Clinton’s up 52/41 with white voters but as has been happening elsewhere what really fuels her lead is a 74/14 advantage with African Americans. 81% of Clinton’s voters are firmly committed to voting for her, compared to 67% of Sanders’. Among just voters whose minds are totally made up, Clinton’s leads expands to 66/34. Sanders leads with ‘very liberal’ voters 48/39 and younger voters 50/41, but Clinton more than makes up for it with leads of 62/33 among ‘somewhat liberal’ voters, 61/30 among moderates, and 70/22 with seniors.

Full results here

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