Poll shows Trump and Clinton in dead heat in key states

BY SALENA ZITO  szito@tribweb.com

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are in a dead heat in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday.

Little separates Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, in the three key swing states that will likely decide the general election in November, according to the Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll, which has Clinton up by a single point in both Florida (43%-42%) and Pennsylvania (43%-42%), and Trump leading Clinton by four points in Ohio (43%-39%).

“Six months from Election Day, the presidential races between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the three most crucial states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are too close to call,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll.

“This election may be good for divorce lawyers. The gender gap is massive and currently benefits Trump,” Brown added. “In Pennsylvania, Clinton’s 19-point lead among women matches Trump’s 21-point margin among men. In Ohio, she is up 7 points among women but down 15 points with men. In Florida she is up 13 points among women but down 13 points among men.”

Brown said Trump is doing better in Pennsylvania than the GOP nominees in 2008 and 2012. In the same poll taken in May of 2008, Sen. John McCain was trailing then senator Barack Obama by six percentage points; he lost to Obama in Pennsylvania in November of that year by nearly 10 percentage points.

In May of 2012 President Barack Obama led Republican nominee Mitt Romney 46 – 40 among Pennsylvania voters; Romney eventually lost Pennsylvania to Obama by 5 percentage points.

Voters in Florida and Ohio said that Trump would do a better job handling the economy and handling terrorism, said Brown. “Pennsylvania voters are divided in who would do a better job handling the economy,” he said.

The Quinnipiac Poll results in Pennsylvania suggest that the GOP may not be as divided as some might think, said Geoffrey Skelley, political numbers analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

The crosstabs show similar levels of unity among Republicans and Democrats said Skelley: “Perhaps the Republican base is more inclined to back Donald Trump than some leaders in the party are, which really would be par for the course in this election cycle.”

The story is largely the same in Florida and Ohio, the other two states the pollster surveyed.

However, two things to keep in mind when examining the poll results said Skelley: “First, it’s May, so it’s pretty important to not overstate what these numbers mean or don’t mean. Six months is a lot of time for the economy to shift for better or for worse, for the president’s approval rating to go up or down, and for many events to occur that could impact the campaign.”

Second, the results should be treated with caution because the poll demographics show an electorate that is whiter than the 2012 exit polls, he said.  In Pennsylvania’s case, 81% of the respondents were white versus 78% of voters in the 2012 exit poll.

“Although an exit poll is also a poll, the overall pattern of increasing nonwhite participation in presidential elections pre-dates Barack Obama, and seems more likely than not to continue,” Skelley said.

According to the Census, from 2012 to 2014, Pennsylvania became about 1 percentage point less non-Hispanic white, matching the nationwide rate of change.

“Because nonwhite voters are so heavily Democratic in their voting habits, potentially understating their participation level could be problematic for understanding what’s going on,” Skelley said.

The same poll showed Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has narrow leads over Trump in all three pivotal states.

The Quinnipiac Swing State Poll says it focuses on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960 no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.

The survey using live interviewers calling land lines and cell phones was conducted between April 27 and May 8 surveying 1,077 Pennsylvania voters with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

First posted 11:51 a.m. Tuesday, May 10, 2016