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Published: Wednesday, 5/18/2011

Poll shows Ohio voters not in favor of labor bill

Nearly half disapprove of Kasich performance

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- A poll released yesterday suggests that opponents of a new law restricting the collective bargaining power of public employees have the majority of Ohioans on their side.

The poll also shows a continuing polarization of the electorate when it comes to its opinion of Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Fifty-four percent of registered voters questioned by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut said they oppose Senate Bill 5, the bill that would prohibit public employees from striking, limit what they can negotiate, and prohibit the automatic deduction of "fair share" fees from the paychecks of workers who refuse to join a union.

Thirty-six percent said they support the new law while just 10 percent remain undecided.

Organized labor, Democrats, and other opponents of the law are circulating petitions to put it on the Nov. 8 ballot. The law is slated to take effect at the end of June, but the filing of at least 231,147 valid signatures from registered voters would put it on hold pending the election.

"Not only does [Mr. Kasich] need to rebuild his image, but the governor will need to move a lot of voters over the next six months if he wants his plan to survive," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Nearly half of those polled, 49 percent, said they disapprove of Mr. Kasich's job performance five months into his term while 38 percent approve.

Both numbers are up from a similar poll in March when 46 percent disapproved and 30 percent approved.

The number of undecided voters has dropped from 23 percent to 13 percent.

"Gov. John Kasich's job approval has ticked up slightly, but he still has a long way to go to get back even to parity among voters," Mr. Brown said. "Most of his increase has come among independents and women voters who have turned slightly less negative on him."

Melissa Fazekas, spokesman for the We Are Ohio coalition fighting Senate Bill 5, said the poll results reflect what the group is seeing in its campaign.

"Over 10,000 volunteers are gathering signatures to support employee rights and worker safety," she said. "This unprecedented level of bipartisan support will help ensure Ohioans have the opportunity to make their voices heard in November by exercising a citizen's veto."

The poll shows opposition to provisions of the law that eliminate strikes, remove health-care from the bargaining table, and strike seniority as the sole factor in determining layoffs.

But voters like some ideas, including a requirement that workers pay at least 15 percent of their health-care premiums and the elimination of automatic longevity pay hikes in favor of performance raises.

The latter could be significant given that similar language, at least as it pertains to teacher pay, has been added to the proposed state budget now under debate.

Voters, by a margin of 58 percent to 34 percent, also like the idea of requiring workers to pay at least 10 percent of their pay toward their pensions.

Senate Bill 5 prohibits local governments from picking up any portion of an employee's share of pension contributions.

It remains to be seen how ad campaigns would affect voter opinion over the next six months.

"All of the media message has been one-sided so far. Whenever organizations get together and start proactive messaging, that will change," said Chris Littleton, president of the Ohio Liberty Council, the closest thing Ohio has to a statewide Tea Party organization.

The Liberty Council is focused on its effort to put a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot to exempt Ohio from the individual insurance mandates under President Obama's health-care law.

Mr. Littleton urged the governor to stay the course.

"If he sticks with a lot of the things he campaigned on, initially he will be a very unpopular governor, because it's painful," he said. "A lot of what he's discussed is really tough medicine, but it's necessary."

The university polled 1,379 registered Ohio voters from May 10 to 16. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

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



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