COLUMBUS -- Voters' approval of Gov. John Kasich continues to climb, as does his edge over potential Democratic challengers more than a year out from the election, the latest Quinnipiac Poll finds.
The Republican governor's numbers are the highest so far in the poll, the latest of which was released Tuesday.
"The number of people who think he is doing a good job continues to climb incrementally, and his favorable/unfavorable ratio among voters is impressive," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "The only bright spot for Democrats in these numbers is that Kasich remains just below the magic 50 percent threshold when voters are asked if he deserves a second term in the governor’s chair. But he is awfully close."
Fifty-four percent of registered voters say they approve of Mr. Kasich's performance. In a potential match-up for the 2014 election, Mr. Kasich leads 47-33 over Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who has joined the race, and 47-36 over Richard Cordray, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director, who has not entered the race.
Perhaps more telling for Mr. Kasich is that 49 percent of registered voters think he deserves re-election compared to 37 percent who do not. That's an improvement from numbers a year ago in the wake of voters' stinging rebuke of his Senate Bill 5 collective bargaining law when even Republicans wanted somebody within the party to challenge him in the primary election.
On June 27, 2012, nearly eight months out from the Senate Bill 5 ballot defeat, Mr. Kasich hit a job approval rating low of 40 percent in the Quinnipiac Poll, with 44 percent disapproving of his performance.
“All in all, at this stage, Kasich has done a pretty good job appealing to voters across the state,” Mr. Brown said. "FitzGerald remains pretty much an unknown to most Ohioans, with only one in four voters knowing enough about him to have formed an opinion. "The election is a long way away, but the next stage will be the race to define FitzGerald, positively by the candidate himself and negatively by the Kasich folks."
Mr. Kasich gets approval from 81 percent of Republicans and 32 percent of Democrats. Significantly, he gets 52 percent of the independents who often decide Ohio elections. Sixty-two percent of men approve compared to 47 percent of women.
The poll shows that the governor does well with all income levels except those earning less than $50,000 a year.
The governor's improving political fortunes may be tied to Ohioans' perception of an improving economy. Forty-four percent say it's getting better, 11 percent say it's worsening, and 42 percent say it's the same.
Mr. Kasich gets more of the credit, in the eyes of voters, for that improvement than does President Obama.
As lawmakers prepare to move a proposed $61.7 billion, two-year budget to his desk, voters, by a margin of 46 percent of 38 percent, say they approve of his handling of the budget.
Fifty-five percent say the state's expected budget surplus should be given back to taxpayers rather than go into additional spending, putting them on the same page as Mr. Kasich on that subject.
Sixty-seven percent also support additional drilling for oil and natural gas in the state because of the potential economic benefits, also in line with Mr. Kasich. Just 26 percent prefer no drilling because of the environmental impact.
The poll questioned 941 registered voters between June 18 and 23. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.