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Poll: Majority of Ohioans back Kasich's Medicaid expansion

COLUMBUS -- A majority of Ohioans think Gov. John Kasich's controversial decision to expand Medicaid eligibility was a good idea, but the move has weakened his Republican base, according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll released today.

Fifty-one percent of voters overall liked the move while 40 percent did not.

“Because of Kasich’s Medicaid expansion, 24 percent of Republicans say they are less likely to vote for him," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "History tells us, however, that many of those alienated party members come home on Election Day because they find the other candidates less palatable.”

Not surprisingly, support for the expansion is strongest among Democrats, 74 percent to 16 percent. The key swing independent vote also likes it, 51 percent to 40 percent.

But Mr. Kasich's Republican base firmly dislikes it 65 percent to 28 percent. Some conservatives have talked instead about supporting expected Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl, a former Republican state representative from Bowling Green.

This poll did not specifically measure what impact Mr. Earl's presence on the ballot might have. Two percent of voters said they'll support a generic third candidate while 4 percent said they won't vote. Fifteen percent remain undecided.

The governor's job approval rating among registered Ohio voters remains high, but that hasn't stopped his still relatively unknown Democratic opponent, Ed FitzGerald, from gaining ground since Quinnipiac's last poll in June.

The governor's decision to expand Medicaid to add an estimated 275,000 mostly working poor adults to the rolls under the Affordable Care Act has led 23 percent of voters overall to say they're now less likely to support his re-election next year.

That compares to 19 percent who say they're now more likely to vote for him. Fifty-four percent say it won't make a difference either way.

Mr. Kasich leads Cuyahoga County Executive FitzGerald nearly a year out from the election 44 percent to 33 percent. But that compares to 47 percent to 37 percent in June.

This is despite a 52 percent job-approval rating.

Mr. FitzGerald, who last week picked state Sen. Eric Kearney (D., Cincinnati) as his running mate, still has a lot of work to do in introducing himself to Ohioans. The poll showed 71 percent of registered voters haven't formed an opinion of him either way.

“It will take a lot of money and time for the Cuyahoga County executive to reach those voters, but introducing himself to them is his job one,” Mr. Brown said. “While FitzGerald is trying to define himself, Kasich can be expected to spend a pretty penny trying to negatively define the Democrat."

The poll questioned 1,361 registered voters between Nov. 19 and 24 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

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