Ohio Gov. John Kasich has largely turned around the negative approval ratings he faced early in his term, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday, but a plurality of voters feel the Republican does not deserve to be reelected in 2014, the poll shows.
The poll represents Quinnipiac's first look at Kasich since last month's elections, which saw Democrats win the Buckeye State's 18 electoral votes and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown win a second term.
Overall, 42 percent of voters approve of the way Kasich is handling his job as governor, while just 35 percent disapprove. That represents a solid turnaround for Kasich, whose poll numbers cratered within months of being inaugurated, after pursuing an unpopular legislative agenda upon taking office. Three months into his term, just 30 percent approved of his job performance, compared to 46 percent who disapproved.
Kasich's political rehabilitation is a more recent phenomenon, coinciding with an improving economy in the state. This past February, a Quinnipiac poll showed the percentage of voters who disapproved of how he was handling his job to still be at 46 percent.
But as Kasich heads into the second half of his term, he still faces an electorate skeptical of giving him another four years in 2014. Just 36 percent of voters -- including 33 percent of independents -- think Kasich deserves to be reelected, while 43 percent feel he does not. Another 21 percent are undecided on Kasich's reelection. And while a healthy plurality of voters say they like Kasich as a person, more say they don't like his policies (43 percent) than say they do (38 percent).
The data show a positive trend for Kasich, however, echoed by the fact that 42 percent of voters think Ohio's economy is getting better, compared to only 19 percent who think it is getting worse. Another data point that solidifies Kasich's standing: 58 percent describe themselves as at least "somewhat satisfied" with the way things are going in Ohio; in October 2011, just before voters handed Kasich a stinging rebuke of a GOP-backed law that stripped some collective bargaining rights, only 29 percent said they were somewhat satisfied with the state's direction.
"An improved voter mood in Ohio portends well for the governor's political future," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland, whom Kasich defeated in 2012, remains the Democrat in the best position to challenge Kasich in two years. Forty-one percent of voters say they have a favorable opinion of Strickland, while 29 percent view him unfavorably. Vast majorities of voters say they "don't know enough" about other possible Democratic contenders: Richard Cordray, former state attorney general who was appointed by President Obama to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald; and Rep. Tim Ryan. "Strickland is by far the best known of the potential Democratic candidates for governor," said Brown, "while the other potential candidate are less well-known, in some cases almost invisible, to voters statewide."
The poll, which was conducted Dec. 4-9, surveyed 1,165 registered voters via landline- and cell-phone. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 2.9 percentage points.