Wednesday, July 01, 2009

POLL: Kasich, Portman and Slots Are Winners

Wenzel Strategies survey shows Ohioans favor Strickland proposal for slots at Ohio horse tracks, but incumbent governor does not appear to profit politically from the idea

  • Kasich leads incumbent Ted Strickland 44%-35%, with 21% undecided

  • Portman leads Fisher 39%-33% in U.S. Senate race with 27% undecided

  • Portman leads Jennifer Brunner 43%-31% with 26% undecided

  • COLUMBUS, Ohio - As Ohio's unemployment rate continues to rise and lawmakers wrangle over how to backfill a gaping state budget deficit, registered voters across Ohio are showing signs they might welcome new leadership at the highest level of the state, a new Wenzel Strategies statewide survey shows.

    The telephone poll, conducted June 23-26, 2009, included 824 registered voters statewide and carries a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Wenzel Strategies and was not commissioned by a third party.

    The poll shows Republican John Kasich, a former congressman from the Columbus area who announced his campaign for governor a month ago, leads Democrat incumbent Ted Strickland, by a 44% to 35%, with a big chunk of Ohioans - 21% - yet undecided. Kasich, who has at times spurned his own party leaders in honing a reputation for independence, wins 59% support among independent voters, compared to only 19% of independents who favor Strickland. Nearly one-quarter of independents were undecided on the question, which is not surprising given the prospective contest is more than 15 months away.

    Strickland does well among Democrats, and Kasich does well among Republicans, the new poll shows.

    Among those who voted for Obama last fall, Strickland wins 66%, while Kasich wins 79% support among those who voted for McCain last fall. Strickland leads by a 44% to 36% margin among men, while Kasich leads by a wide margin among women.

    Ohioans Favor Video Slots

    While lawmakers continue to battle over the idea in Columbus, the new Wenzel Strategies poll shows that a majority of Ohioans favor Governor Strickland's proposal to place video slot machines at horseracing tracks around the state to help raise money for the state budget. While 51% favored the proposal, 40% opposed it, the poll shows. Another 9% were undecided on the questions. Strickland recently aired the proposal as a way to help fill a state budget gap, but said he favored the proposal only as a last resort and did not necessarily like having to propose it.

    Democrats were far more likely than Republicans to support the proposal. Among Dems, 66% favored it, compared to just 32% of Republicans who supported it. Among independent voters across the state, 54% favored the idea.

    However, Ohioans were split on the question of whether they supported the idea of state-approved gambling in general, not counting the existing state lottery games. While 44% said they opposed gambling beyond lotteries, 42% said they approve of such laws.

    It is interesting to note, however, that while Ohioans favor the governor's proposal to put slots at race tracks, more than three-quarters of those surveyed said that it would make either no difference in who they would support for governor next year, or it would make them less likely to support Strickland. While 35% said they would be less likely to vote for Strickland because of his gambling plan, just 17% said it would make them more likely to support him next year.

    U.S. Senate Contests

    In prospective political contests for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Cleveland's George Voinovich, Republican Rob Portman leads Democrat Lee Fisher, the sitting lieutenant governor, by a 39% to 33% margin statewide. As was the case in the Kasich-Strickland horserace, Portman leads substantially on his strength among independent voters. There are also large blocs of undecided voters in many demographic groups.

    When Portman, a well-known former congressman from the Cincinnati area who also served in the Bush administration, is pitted against Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Portman leads by a 43% to 31% margin. Both candidates in this prospective contest do well among their own party supporters, with Portman winning among independent voters.

    Pollster Fritz Wenzel: "All of these races suggest that Ohioans are uncertain over political questions, the economy, and the state budget. It is not surprising that, this far out from the elections, there are large numbers of undecided voters, but Ohioans seem unsure in part about larger questions of where the nation may be headed. Ohio Democrats are winning only 60% to 65% support from those voters who supported President Obama just half a year ago. This is not a good sign for them, but it is not yet a bad sign, either - because these voters have not moved over to support the Republican candidate. Instead, they have merely moved into the undecided column.

    "If Obama, the nation at large and especially the economy perform well over the next year, Ohio Democrats could reasonably expect to enjoy support from his coattails like many across the state did seven months ago. But the uncertainty of the moment appears to be benefiting Republicans."