Republican incumbent John Kasich’s lead in the 2014 governor’s race continues to shrink even though most voters say Kasich is a strong leader who is honest and trustworthy, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University.
Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, who is the Cuyahoga County executive, is five points behind Kasich even though 70 percent of voters say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion, the poll found.
If the election were held today, 43 percent would vote for Kasich and 38 percent for FitzGerald. The same pollsters had Kasich winning by seven points in a November survey and 14 points in a survey last June.
The poll did not include Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl, who is expected to pull votes from conservatives who are upset with Kasich over Medicaid expansion and other policy issues.
The economy will likely be the campaign battleground for the Kasich-FitzGerald contest. Kasich says it is heading in the right direction; FitzGerald says the economy is lagging and too many Ohioans are out of work.
Pollsters found that 44 percent of voters approve of Kasich’s handling of jobs and the economy while 46 percent disapprove.
Fifty-one percent of voters give Kasich a positive job approval rating, 61 percent say he’s a strong leader and 52 percent rate him as honest and trustworthy. But most voters aren’t convinced that he cares about their needs — 43 percent say he does, 47 percent say he doesn’t — and only 46 percent say he deserves to be re-elected.
“Voters see Gov. John Kasich in a more favorable light when it comes to his personal characteristics than his handling of issues,” said Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University poll. “They give him high grades on leadership and positive ratings on trustworthiness and good judgment, though not so much on understanding the problems of average folks. He gets basically even scores on handling the budget, taxes and jobs, the latter of which is cited by voters as the top priority.”
Forty-two percent voter Ohio voters name the economy or jobs as the top priority for state government this year, 14 percent list education as the top focus, followed by 5 percent who say it should be health care, the poll found.
“Polls will go up and down over the next nine months, but it is clear that Ohioans are responding to Ed FitzGerald because he does not believe the daily financial anxiety Ohio’s families have endured under John Kasich should be the new normal.” said FitzGerald campaign manager Nick Buis in a written release.
Pollsters also asked Ohio voters about capital punishment: 68 percent favor the death penalty, 26 percent oppose it. But when asked whether they favor the death penalty or life in prison with no chance for parole, support for capital punishment dropped to 47 percent while 48 percent support life in prison with or without the chance of parole.
The poll was conducted Feb. 12-17, surveyed 1,370 registered Ohio voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.