A recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll carries echoes of 2020 and 2018 at the top of the Ohio ticket. Pollsters found former President Donald Trump leading presidential candidates in the state, and Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown leading the field in his bid for reelection.
Nuts and bolts
Suffolk University spoke to 500 Ohioans over the phone who said they planned to vote in the 2024 presidential election. Researchers broke the state into five regions and weighted demographics like party, race, gender and age based on census data and 2020 exit polls. Their margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.
The Republican primary to face off against Brown remains wide open — perhaps unsurprising with the election still about nine months away. The majority of respondents, nearly 57% of them, haven’t made up their decision.
Among those voters who have, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose leads the pack. After winning two terms in his current post, though, he likely has the most name recognition of the declared candidates. State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, who placed third in the 2022 primary, came in second in Suffolk’s poll, followed by Westlake businessman Bernie Moreno. Still, given the margin of error, all three candidates are within striking distance of one another.
The Republican candidates’ showings played out in the poll’s hypothetical match ups. In all three head-to-head contests, Brown came out on top, but the narrowest margin — less than half a percentage point — came against LaRose. Although moving down the list from Dolan to Moreno saw Brown’s support grow, and the GOP candidate’s falter, all three match ups fall within the poll’s margin of error.
Notably, the poll also seems to carry hints of Brown’s unique ability to succeed in an increasingly red state. Despite tight margins when voters have a choice between candidates, a slim majority approve or strongly approve of Brown’s performance in office. That’s about 21 points better than the share Suffolk found who disapprove or strongly disapprove of his performance.
The presidential contest
With presumed frontrunner Donald Trump teasing yet another potential indictment, it’s anyone’s guess what the GOP field looks like by next year. But Suffolk’s researchers found Trump’s grip on the Ohio electorate remains strong, even if it may not be as strong as in 2020.
Donald Trump leads all Republican candidates as a first choice — collecting more than double the share of his closest competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Researchers also asked about respondents’ second choice. There, DeSantis came out ahead. But in a combined tally Trump still held a lead just beyond the poll’s margin of error.
Researchers described this as 92% of DeSantis voters being willing to vote for Trump, but just 83% of Trump voters being open to DeSantis. Suffolk Political Research Center director David Paleologos explained Trump’s support appears less transferrable.
“Assuming that every Trump voter will automatically get in line behind another Republican nominee is a big mistake,” he said. “Some of these voters will only stand with Trump and could walk away from the Republican Party.”
In hypothetical contests against President Joe Biden, Trump held a six-point lead and DeSantis came out two points ahead.
“The difference between a solid Trump lead and a soft DeSantis lead is Trump voters,” Paleologos said. “Some of these voters are holding back on DeSantis with a ‘Trump or bust’ mentality, signaling a stronger loyalty to Trump than the Republican Party.”
But just as Suffolk’s poll demonstrates Trump’s dominance of the party, it also highlights cracks in the foundation. Trump’s six-point advantage is down slightly from his 2020 finish in Ohio. In addition the poll itself shows some voters move away from the former president. When they asked who respondents voted for in 2020, a narrow majority, 51.2%, said they voted for Trump. In the hypothetical Biden-Trump matchup, however, a noticeably smaller group, 43.6%, went with Trump.
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.