Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are now tied at 45 percent in Ohio, according to a Suffolk University poll of likely voters conducted just before the third presidential debate. Trump had led by 3 points in Ohio a month ago, 42 percent to Clinton’s 39 percent, in Suffolk University’s September poll.

“The race couldn’t get any closer in the Buckeye State,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Research Center in Boston. “Hillary Clinton has closed the narrow gap with Donald Trump since September, and the final outcome in Ohio could come down to the energy of each candidate’s base and the respective campaigns’ get-out-the-vote operations.”

The poll showed Libertarian Gary Johnson at 2 percent, down from 4 percent in September, Green Party nominee Jill Stein remaining at 1 percent and Richard Duncan, a non-party candidate, at 1 percent, with 5 percent undecided.

“The events over the past month have resulted in a dramatic shift among those Ohioans who self-identified as independents,” said Paleologos. “In September, Trump led among this group by twenty-seven points. Today, he only leads by six points, and ten percent of independents still have not decided. If Clinton takes the lead among independents, she wins Ohio. If those remaining undecided independents tip back to Trump, he will prevail.”

Demographic analysis

Among the 16 percent of voters who said they were excited by this presidential election Clinton led Trump 65 percent to 31 percent. However, 62 percent of Ohioans said they were alarmed about the election, and Trump led Clinton 49 percent to 39 percent with those voters. Among the 12 percent who said they were bored, there was no clear advantage, with Clinton edging Trump 44 percent to 42 percent.

Seven in 10 likely voters said they planned to watch the final debate held last night, while 22 percent weren’t planning to watch, and 8 percent weren’t sure. Among those planning to watch the debate, Clinton led Trump 47 percent to 45 percent, while Trump led 44 percent to 39 percent among those not planning to watch the debate or not sure.

The gender gap has widened a bit since September on both sides, with women supporting Clinton 51 percent to 39 percent. Men preferred Trump by nearly the same margin, 51 percent to 38 percent. However, Clinton has gained 6 points among men since the September poll.

Perceptions on election outcome

A majority of voters believe that Clinton, will ultimately be elected regardless of their personal preferences, with 57 percent saying she will be the next president, compared to 26 percent who believe that Trump will prevail. In September, the perception gap between the candidates was 8 points: 45 percent believed Clinton would win at that time, while 37 percent saw Trump entering the White House.

Ohio voters said that the number one issue facing the next president is jobs/economy (20 percent), followed by terrorism and national security (18 percent), choosing Supreme Court nominees (15 percent), illegal immigration and national debt (7 percent each), and health care (6 percent). The percentage of voters concerned about choosing Supreme Court nominees nearly doubled, from 8 percent in September to 15 percent today.

U.S. Senate

In Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman (46 percent) led Democrat Ted Strickland (31 percent), followed by independent candidate Tom Connors (3 percent), Green Party nominee Joseph DeMare (2 percent), and independent Scott Rupert (1 percent), while 14 percent were undecided.

History

The final Suffolk University poll conducted in Ohio in 2012 showed a tie between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney with 47 percent each, with Stein, Johnson, and Duncan receiving 1 percent each. The final results were Obama 51 percent, Romney 48 percent, Johnson 1 percent, and Stein with just under .5 percent.

Methodology

The Ohio survey of 500 likely voters was conducted October 17-19 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.