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Published: Friday, 2/2/2007

Poll: Ohioans back delaying, but not ending, executions

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Ohio voters back Gov. Ted Strickland's recent decision to delay three executions to give him time to conduct thorough clemency reviews, but they continue to support the death penalty, a statewide poll showed yesterday.

The Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Poll also showed that voters like the idea of a proposed constitutional amendment mandating more spending on poorer schools, but support wanes when it comes to higher taxes or other program cuts to fund it.

The poll of 1,305 voters has a margin of error of 2.7 percent.

By a margin of 60-31 percent, voters back Mr. Strickland's decision to temporarily delay an execution originally set for 15 days into his administration and put off two that were scheduled for this month.

Voters reinforced by a margin of 48-38 percent - 46-38 percent in northwest Ohio - their support of execution over life in prison without parole for convicted murderers.

Support for the death penalty is greatest among Republicans, men, and those who identify themselves as white, born-again evangelicals.

Although below 50 percent, the state's support for the death penalty is stronger than what has been seen in some other states, said Peter A. Brown, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute's assistant director.

A similar question in a poll released this week in New Jersey showed a majority preferring life without parole.

In Ohio, 70 percent support sending more money to poorer schools, and 65 percent like the idea of using a constitutional amendment to force the issue. But 53 percent said they'd be less likely to support the amendment if it doesn't specify where the money would come from.

"People generally want better schools," said Mr. Brown. "Most people think their local schools are pretty good, but they are less confident about other schools across Ohio."

A coalition of teachers' unions, administrators, school boards, and parents hopes to gather a minimum of 402,276 signatures of Ohio voters to place the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The State Board of Education, with elected and appointed members, would determine what constitutes a "high-quality education" and would establish a per-student price tag for it. The state would assume a school district levies 20 mills of local property taxes, and the state would have to fill the gap between what those mills generate and the per-pupil price tag.

The amendment doesn't require schools to roll back property taxes, nor would it prohibit future levies.

Coalition spokesman Jim Betts said the level of voter interest demonstrated in the poll is consistent with what the group has been hearing. He also said the reaction to any suggestion of a tax hike was predictable.

"Any question that implies some kind of a tax increase in today's political environment is a loaded question...," he said. "But people are coming to the conclusion that if we're going to make some kind of priority of primary and secondary education, it's going to take some kind of investment."

The poll showed that voters are evenly split at 47 percent when it comes to raising taxes, and 55 percent said they'd be less likely to support the amendment if it would result in cuts to other social services.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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