Republican Donald Trump leads Democrat Hillary Clinton by 3 points in Ohio, according to a Suffolk University poll of likely voters in a state considered highly significant to the outcome of the presidential election.

Trump (42 percent) led Clinton (39 percent) in a statistical dead heat, with Libertarian Gary Johnson (4 percent), Green Party nominee Jill Stein (1 percent) and Richard Duncan, a non-party candidate certified on the Ohio ballot, at 1 percent and 12 percent undecided.

“Donald Trump is moving the dial among those who think of themselves as independents,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Research Center in Boston. “Continued movement among independents could give Trump a bigger edge overall.”

About four out of five self-identified Democrats or Republicans favored their-party’s candidate, but among independent voters Trump led 43 percent to 16 percent, with Johnson at 10 percent and 25 percent undecided. In a Suffolk University July poll of Ohio voters, Trump and Clinton were tied among independents at 34 percent each. When voters of all parties were considered in that poll, Clinton led Trump 43 percent to 39 percent, with Johnson receiving 5 percent and Stein 1 percent.

Demographic trends

Among women, Clinton led Trump 45 percent to 35 percent but trailed the GOP nominee among men with 32 percent to Trump’s 49 percent. Trump carried white voters 50 percent to 31 percent, but minority voters preferred Clinton, 65 percent to Trump’s 10 percent, with 17 percent undecided. Among gun owner households in Ohio, Trump led Clinton 51 percent to 32 percent but trailed Clinton among likely voters without guns, 46 percent to 33 percent.

Changing perception of outcome

The poll revealed a significant shift in response to the question of who voters thought would ultimately be elected, regardless of their personal preferences. During the past four weeks Clinton held a roughly 20-point advantage over Trump on this question in the battleground states of Iowa, Nevada, Michigan, and North Carolina, where, despite close races, voters were saying that Clinton would ultimately win. In the Ohio poll, Clinton’s advantage was 8 points, 45 percent to 37 percent, with 18 percent not sure.

“After resting for a few days, Hillary Clinton’s absence from the political fray may have hurt the perception that she would easily win in November,” said Paleologos, noting Clinton’s recent pneumonia diagnosis.

Ohio voters said that the number one issue facing the next president is terrorism and national security (24 percent), followed by jobs/economy (22 percent), illegal immigration (8 percent), choosing Supreme Court nominees (8 percent), health care (6 percent), and reducing the national debt (4 percent).

U.S. Senate race

In Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Rob Portman (39 percent) led Democrat Ted Strickland (31 percent), with independents Scott Rupert and Tom Connors at 2 percent, Green Party nominee Joseph DeMare with 1 percent, and 23 percent undecided.

History

The final Suffolk University Ohio poll in 2012 showed a tie between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, with 47 percent each, with Stein, Johnson, and independent Richard Duncan at 1 percent each. The final results were Obama 51 percent, Romney 48 percent, Johnson 1 percent, and Stein with less than 0.5 percent.

Methodology

The Ohio survey of 500 likely voters was conducted Sept. 12-14 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were very or somewhat likely to vote in the 2016 general election. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.