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Poll shows Donald Trump underperforming in bellwether Hillsborough County

Is this a sign of things to come?

If Hillsborough County is a bellwether for the state, it doesn’t look good for President Donald Trump.

A St. Pete Polls Survey conducted Tuesday, likely before voters were able to view the first presidential debate, which didn’t start until 9 p.m., showed Trump underperforming in the county compared to his results against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Trump registered just 42% support among all polled voters in the county compared to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 55%. In 2016, Clinton carried Hillsborough with just 52% of the vote.

Perhaps more bad news for Trump, Hillsborough voters don’t appear to be breaking for third party candidates in the numbers seen four years ago when much of the Bernie or Bust crowd either wrote his name in, stayed home or voted third party.

That year, 3.8% of Hillsborough voters cast a ballot for a candidate other than Trump or Clinton. The St. Pete Polls survey shows only 1.5% of voters planning to vote third party.

And there’s not a lot of wiggle room for Trump — only 1.4% of voters indicated they were still undecided.

It’s just one of Florida’s 67 counties, but it’s one of the most populous and sits at the western-most edge of the coveted I-4 corridor, a voting tract that can make or break statewide elections.

There are some statistical answers to the drop in Trump’s performance in Hillsborough County. Democratic voter registration stayed largely the same, increasing just one tenth of a percent from 39.4% of the total registered voters to 39.5%. But Republicans lost voters, dropping from 31.2% in 2016 to just 30.4% this year. Meanwhile, the number of independent voters grew from 29.4% in 2016 to 30.1%.

Independents are breaking more for Biden with 54% of respondents indicating support for the former Vice President and only 42% going with the incumbent.

Biden also wins in crossover appeal.

Only 9% of Hillsborough Democrats plan to vote for Trump while 16% of Republicans plan to vote for Biden.

Trump, perhaps not surprisingly, leads among White voters with 49.5% of the vote compared to 48% for Biden. But White voters have lost ground on voter registration, going from 59.1% of all voters four years ago to just 56.4% this year. Black residents, meanwhile, overwhelmingly support Biden with 90% support. And, though they are still a minority in county, increased in voter registration from 15.8% to 16.1%. Trump claims just 6% support in that demographic.

Biden also leads among Hispanic voters in the county 51% to 46%.

Biden leads among both men and women with 51% support from men and 58% among women. Trump claims just 39% support among women and 46% among men.

Meanwhile, Biden leads in every age demographic, including the more conservative 70 and up bloc, though Biden’s lead among senior voters is tighter than younger age demographics. Biden has the highest support among the 30-49 age cohort at 59% to 38%. That’s followed by the 50-69 crowd, which showed 56% support for Biden and 41.5% for Trump. Young voters ages 18-29 showed 53.5% support for Biden compared to just 45% for Trump.

With a robust Democratic advantage countywide, one that can even withstand outsized Republican turnout in presidential election, Trump winning Hillsborough was probably never part of the strategy.

However, to win Florida, as Trump will likely need to win in the Electoral College, Trump needs to at least make gains, or at least maintain his 2016 performance, in areas where he lost four years ago. Pundits see that happening in South Florida where Trump is aggressively targeting Hispanic voters that could help him over-perform in the overwhelmingly left region, putting a dent in Biden’s statewide vote.

On a smaller scale, the same can be said for Hillsborough County. If Trump loses ground there, it helps Biden absorb losses in right-leaning areas where Trump is sure to dominate.

The survey was conducted among 1,331 likely Hillsborough County voters through an automated phone polling system. Results were weighted to account for demographics and active voter trends. Weighting demographics included political party, race, age and gender. The poll’s margin of error is 2.7%.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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