NPR logo Ohio Exit-Poll Surprise: Romney Draws Low-Income, No-College Voters

Mitt Romney

Ohio Exit-Poll Surprise: Romney Draws Low-Income, No-College Voters

There's something funny happening in Ohio according to CNN's exit poll — Mitt Romney is appealing to some of the very income and education groups in Ohio that were supposed to be Rick Santorum's strength: voters with relatively low incomes and no-college experience.

That could be bad news for Santorum, since Romney also attracts the highest-income, college-educated voters as well who populate Ohio's big city suburbs and exurbs.

According to the exit poll, Romney came close to Santorum among voters who never attended college, with Romney getting 34 percent to Santorum's 37 percent. Those voters composed 24 percent of the exit poll sample.

Also, Romney got 34 percent of those whose incomes are under $30,000, compared with 35 percent for Santorum.

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania bested Romney when it came to voters whose incomes were between $30,000 and $100,000. Santorum outperformed Romney by 10 percentage points among voters whose incomes fell between $50,000 and $100,000.

Romney's better performance among that lowest-income group might be explained by his strength with older voters, many of whom are probably living on fixed incomes.

Romney got 47 percent of voters 65 or over while Santorum got 31 percent of that vote.

If Romney goes on to win the Ohio primary, it may be these older voters who gave him the critical edge.

Addendum at 8:33 pm — Looking back at the exit poll for last week's primary in Michigan, a state which resembles Ohio in some important respects, you notice that Romney also did well with the same low-income, no-college demographic groups that he did well with in Ohio. He appears to have performed somewhat better with those groups in the Buckeye State.