COLUMBUS -- Ohioans are generally more optimistic about their own lives, the new Las Vegas-style casinos that are about to open, and an expected boom in oil and natural gas drilling, today's latest Quinnipiac Poll said.
But while they like the governor's idea to expand taxes on drilling to underwrite an income tax cut for all Ohioans, registered voters in the state still aren't high on John Kasich. The Republican governor remains underwater in the opinion of registered voters overall with 41 percent approving of his performance and 44 percent disapproving.
For those who see improvement or a worsening in the state's economy, Mr. Kasich gets the credit or blame in either scenario.
The manufacturing state's unemployment rate of 7.5 percent remains below the national average of 8.1 percent, and through April the state is running a relatively healthy budget surplus.
This has put Mr. Kasich in the position of talking up the state's successes, even while presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney visits the state to make his case to voters that President Obama has failed in his promises to turn around the economy.
"Governor Kasich's numbers have come up somewhat along with the optimism, but he still has a ways to go," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"Voters say 49 to 40 percent that he is unfair in the way he handles the budget, but they do see him as a strong leader, 54 percent to 36 percent, which is a characteristic voters seek in their executives," he said. "The gender gap remains alive and well in Ohio when it comes to satisfaction and to approval of the governor."
In all, 49 percent of men approve of the governor's job performance while 41 percent disapprove. Among women, 46 percent disapprove while just 34 percent approve.
Ohio is among a handful of election swing states in which opinions are tracked by Quinnipiac.
Overall, 51 percent of voters say they are very or somewhat satisfied right now, up from a record low of 29 percent that the same poll recorded in October. This marks the first time that the satisfaction rate has been at the halfway point since 2007.
"That may be because the state's economy has improved, so much so that the Buckeye unemployment rate is below the national average and lower than many of the Sun Belt states where Ohioans have been fleeing for decades for better economic opportunities," Mr. Brown said.
Among the poll's findings:
Gambling: 62 percent say four voter-approved casinos will be good for the state while the same percentage said they don't plan to visit them. The first casino is to open Monday in downtown Cleveland while the second on the East Toledo riverfront is to open May 29.
Economy: 28 percent say the economy has gotten better since Mr. Kasich took office, 23 believe it has gotten worse, and 45 percent see it as unchanged.
Oil and natural gas drilling: Voters believe the economic benefits will outweigh environmental worries.
Drilling taxes: Mr. Kasich has run into problems with fellow Republicans in the General Assembly over his proposal to expand the state's severance tax on the burgeoning shale oil and natural gas industries to finance an across-the-board income tax cut. Fifty-five percent of voters generally like the idea of raising the tax, and support jumps to 60 percent when it's linked to an income tax cut. Support cuts across party lines.
"This looks like an issue on which Governor Kasich has the voters behind him," Mr. Brown said.
The poll of 1,069 registered voters between May 2 and 7 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.