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COLUMBUS — If the election were held today, Ohio voters would reject a new law restricting the collective bargaining power of public employees, according to a poll released Wednesday.
Fifty-four percent of registered voters questioned by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University said they oppose Senate Bill 5, which prohibits all public employees from striking, limits what they can negotiate, and makes it easier for workers to petition for decertification of a union in their workplace.
Thirty-six percent said they support the new law while just 10 percent remain undecided this far out from the Nov. 8 election.
Organized labor, Democrats, and other opponents of the law are circulating petitions to put the law passed solely with Republican votes and signed by GOP Gov. John Kasich in late March on the Nov. 8 ballot for an up or down vote. The law is slated to take effect at the end of June, but the filing of a sufficient number of valid signatures from registered voters would put the law on hold pending the outcome of the vote.
“Although it is a long way until November when opponents of SB 5 hope to ask voters to overturn it, at this point there is strong support for repealing Gov. Kasich’s signature plan,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“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,” he said. “Voters also say they are opposed to several parts of the new law.”
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. Opinion of Mr. Kasich and his policies continues to polarize as more people make up their minds about him and move into one column or the other.
In March, 46 percent of those polled disapproved of the governor’s performance and just 30 percent approved. The number of undecideds has dropped from 23 percent to 13 percent in that time.
“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.”
We Are Ohio, the coalition opposing Senate Bill 5, have until nearly the end of June to turn in a minimum of 231,147 signatures to the put the law on the ballot. While the Statehouse was filled several times with protestors when lawmakers were considering the law, an organized effort to promote and protect the law from repeal has yet to emerge.
It remains to be seen how ad campaigns on both sides of the issue could affect voter opinion over the next six months.
Among its numerous provisions, Senate Bill 5 would require public workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, prohibit local governments from picking up any portion of an employee’s share of his pension, scrap automatic longevity pay increases for a yet-to-be-defined performance pay system, and prohibit the use of seniority as the sole factor determining the order of layoffs.
Mr. Kasich and other supporters of the law have argued that a course correction in collective bargaining is necessary to give state and local governments the tools necessary to reduce costs and give taxpayers even footing with unions in negotiations. The poll released Wednesday, however, suggests that voters, 52 percent to 38 percent, aren’t buying into the argument that Senate Bill 5 is necessary to help balance the state’s budget.
Meanwhile, opponents argue that the law is a direct attack on the working middle class. That argument may be resonating. The poll shows that, by a margin of 53 percent to 36 percent, voters said they believe Mr. Kasich’s policies in general are unfair to people like them.
The university polled 1,379 registered Ohio voters from May 10 to 16. The results suggesting dissatisfaction with both Senate Bill 5 and Mr. Kasich outside the margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.