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Early voters could be key in Ohio, TargetSmart/William & Mary survey shows

Oct. 31–Nov. 3 survey results show Trump leads overall with Clinton leading among early voters

The last in a series of voter surveys in battleground states for the 2016 Presidential Election shows Hillary Clinton trailing Donald Trump, 43 to 40, percent in the overall vote. However, similar to a recent survey TargetSmart/William & Mary conducted in Florida in late October, the Ohio survey showed Clinton with a seven-point lead over Trump among early voters – 48 to 41 percent.

Researchers think the trends among early voters could be particularly telling.

“The fact that Clinton's lead, while significant in Ohio early voting is still much less than in Florida, is significant,” said Ron Rapoport, John Marshall Professor of Government and member of the partnership research team. “The difference in early voting (11 percent larger Clinton lead in Florida) is much greater than the difference among non-early voters (Trump leads by only six percent in Ohio versus one percent in Florida).”

Rapoport is one of three William & Mary professors on the survey research team working with TargetSmart. The other members are Jaime Settle, assistant professor of government; and Dan Maliniak, assistant professor of government. The series of surveys is William & Mary’s first polling partnership and was announced in September.

TargetSmart logoThe TargetSmart/William & Mary poll series was featured for the second time in a week Sunday night on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell." The poll’s data on early voters was of particular interest. The TargetSmart/William & Mary survey included a sample of voters known to already have voted either by absentee or in-person early voting. Those voters, reported through the Ohio Secretary of State, are tracked on TargetSmart’s voter file.

“Looking at the early vote in Ohio, what stands out the most to me is the fact that 57 percent of the voters who have voted early in Ohio thus far are women,” Tom Bonier, TargetSmart CEO, told O’Donnell. “And while women generally outnumber men in the vote overall, we generally are talking about numbers in the range of 51 to 52 percent of the electorate being women when all is said and done.”

Among cross-over voters – voters who identified with one party but are voting for the candidate of the other party – the survey shows Trump received four percent of self-described Democrat’s and Clinton captured 10 percent among self-described Republicans in the early vote.  Also with the early voters Clinton holds a 23-point advantage with women, 55 to 32 percent.

“Our poll suggests that Secretary Clinton has banked substantially more votes ahead of the election than Trump. Moreover, as we saw in our recent research in Florida among early voters, a significant number of Republicans have already crossed over to support Clinton,” said TargetSmart pollster Ben Lazarus.

I voted jpgAt stake in the Ohio contest are 18 Electoral College votes.

Getting a full-read on the degree of early voting seen in the battleground states will take some time, researchers said.

"What will become clearer on Tuesday is whether the increased early voting numbers are the result of traditional likely voters turning out early or if these are 'low-propensity' voters who are being activated or mobilized by the candidates, their rhetoric, or their GOTV operations," Maliniak said. "While the excitement may peak tomorrow for most people, the data and opportunities afforded through this partnership will help us answer questions like this after the election.”

Both the survey’s methodology and all of the survey results are available online.