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Published: Thursday, 5/15/2014

Poll shows commanding lead for Kasich

TV ads aired after May 6 primary may have caused increase in support

Kasich Kasich

COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich has tripled his lead since February, opening a 15 percentage point gap over Democratic opponent Ed FitzGerald in the latest Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday.

FitzGerald FitzGerald

The poll also shows that Ohio’s registered voters still support the death penalty for murderers even after recent problems with carrying out executions.

The Republican governor leads with an even 50 percent of the vote to the Cuyahoga County executive’s 35 percent, well outside the margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The Connecticut-based university’s poll had Mr. Kasich up 5 points three months ago.

“He gets plus-50 percent approval ratings from voters on his handling of the economy and the state budget,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Unversity Polling Institute. “These numbers are crucial because the economy and jobs are the most important issues in the minds of voters.

“Democratic County Executive Ed FitzGerald remains unknown to many voters,” he said. “Democratic optimists will argue that with six months until Election Day, FitzGerald has a golden opportunity to reach all those voters. He’s going to have to spend a lot of money on that introduction while the better-funded Kasich will introduce FitzGerald to those same voters in a much less flattering way.”

The poll, coming on the heels of the May 6 primary election, may have been affected by TV ads aired by Mr. Kasich and the Republican Governors Association promoting the governor and his policies. Mr. FitzGerald, whose campaign had just $1.5 million in the bank as of the end of April compared to Mr. Kasich's $8.5 million coffers, has only aired a radio commercial to date.

The governor has his best job-performance numbers since his election with 56 percent approving and 33 percent disapproving, and now 53 percent say he deserves re-election.

He also seems to have turned things around in one area where Mr. Kasich previously appeared to be vulnerable. Voters, by a margin of 53 percent to 39 percent, now say they believe Mr. Kasich cares about their problems. Mr. FitzGerald has attempted to paint Mr. Kasich’s policies as favoring the wealthy over the middle class.

The governor is in positive territory on his handling of taxes, the state budget, and health care. but is evenly split at 29 percent to 29 percent on the question of how he’s handled abortion. Abortion is one issue where Mr. FitzGerald has taken aim at the governor.

“Voters think Gov. Kasich deserves another term, and two-thirds consider him a strong leader,” Mr. Brown said. “A small majority says he cares about their needs, a measure on which Republicans, even successful ones, often don’t do that well. And perhaps most important for Kasich’s re-election, 60 percent of voters are satisfied with the way things are going in the state.”

When it comes to punishment for murder, 69 percent of registered Ohio voters support the death penalty compared to 25 percent who do not. When picking from a menu of punishments, 43 percent choose the death penalty while 40 percent favor life without parole and 9 percent prefer life in prison with a chance for parole. The two life sentence options total 49 percent.

The poll of 1,174 registered voters was conducted between May 7 and 12.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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