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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011

Poll reveals Ohio voters disapprove of Kasich's proposals, performance

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- Ohio voters disapprove of Gov. John Kasich's proposed budget, his support of restrictions on public employee collective bargaining, and his overall performance since he took office two and half months ago, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll of 1,384 registered voters by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University found that 48 percent of voters don't like Senate Bill 5, the measure moving toward a House vote that would prohibit public employees from striking and limit what they can talk about at the bargaining table. Forty-one percent approve.

When the same question was reworded to limit collective bargaining "rights,'' disapproval climbed to 54 percent.

In all, 53 percent said the Republican governor's budget proposal is unfair to them, and the governor has an overall 46 percent disapproval rating.

"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,'' Mr. Brown 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 protesters to the Statehouse. Among other things, it would 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.

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.

Also, 37 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's administration declines to comment on polls. But Bob Bennett, a member of the Republican National Committee and former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said the governor knew he was going to have to do some unpopular things to get Ohio back on the path of economic prosperity.

"John Kasich has said that Ohio has done the political thing for 30 years and look where we are,'' he said. "He will do the right thing and let the polls take care of themselves when election time comes up in three and a half years.''

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. At 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.''

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 the wording used in polling and in TV ads could sway public opinion.

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


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