The poll of 1,384 registered voters by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University found that 48 percent of voters don't like Senate Bill 5 that would limit collective bargaining. Forty-one percent approve.
When the question was reworded to limit collective bargaining "rights," disapproval climbed to 54 percent.
Fifty-three percent say the Republican governor's budget proposal is unfair to them, and 46 percent disapprove of the way he's done his job two and half months into his term.
"Gov. John Kasich has gotten off to a rocky start with Ohio voters, perhaps not surprising given the size of the cuts in public services and state spending that he has proposed," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"Although there is almost nothing in these numbers that Kasich can point to as evidence of his popularity or that of his proposals, he can take solace from the fact that he has almost four years to turn around public opinion," he said.
The $55.5 billion, two-year budget that Mr. Kasich proposed last week was designed to close an estimated $8 billion revenue shortfall caused by the heavy reliance of the current budget on one-time federal stimulus dollars. To a large extent, the state does not replace those dollars, resulting in significant cuts to K-12 schools, local governments, prisons, and a number of social service programs.
Senate Bill 5 has drawn thousands of protestors to the Statehouse. The bill would prohibit strikes by public employees; limit what they can talk about at the bargaining table; eliminate final binding arbitration as a means to bring an end to police, firefighter, and other public safety employee disputes; end the practice of government paying for part of the employee's share of pension contributions, and require all public employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health coverage premiums.
Mr. Kasich has tied the collective bargaining and budget cuts together, saying Senate Bill 5 will better enable local governments to control their personnel costs as a means of helping to offset the loss of state revenue.
The poll shows a wide partisan and narrower gender gap when it comes to judging Mr. Kasich. While he has an overall approval rating of just 30 percent, Republicans are more likely to give him high marks, at 63 percent, than Democrats, 11 percent.
Thirty-seven percent of men approve of his performance, but support drops to 25 percent among women. At 36 percent, northwest Ohio voters are more approving than the state as a whole.
Mr. Kasich won last November's election over Democratic incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland by a margin of 49 percent to 47 percent of the vote.
"It's a pretty fair bet that the controversy over the Kasich proposals has made him and them unpopular with voters," Mr. Brown said. "Yet when voters are asked about his general approach of cutting but not taxing, that policy does much better in the court of public opinion.
"As this point, Kasich has not convinced voters, especially women, that he is being fair, and he is on the wrong side of the collective bargaining issue, which has received major attention," he said.
The poll made a point of asking half of those questioned whether they support "limiting collective bargaining for public employees" while the other half was asked if they support "limiting collective bargaining rights." Inserting the word "rights" caused support to drop from 41 percent to 35 percent.
This showing could be significant given that, regardless of what emerges in the next week or so in the Ohio House, Senate Bill 5 is probably destined for a November general election repeal effort. It's an indication that wording used in polling and in TV ads could sway public opinion.