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Poll: Dogfight in Ohio Governor's Race

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.


Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland is statistically tied with Republican challenger John Kasich among likely voters in the Ohio governor's race, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds.

In the state's Senate race to replace retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), meanwhile, the survey shows that Republican Rob Portman holds a comfortable 45 percent - 34 percent lead over Democrat Lee Fisher among likely voters.

Notably, both Democratic candidates fare better among voters overall than they do likely voters, reflecting the enthusiasm gap between energized Republicans and relatively apathetic Democrats going into the midterm elections.

Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, left, and Republican candidate for governor John Kasich shake hands before their debate in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010. AP

Strickland leads Kasich by five points among all voters, while Portman's lead over Fisher shrinks to six points when all voters are counted.

In the 2006 midterm elections, Ohio Democrats were more enthusiastic than the state's Republicans about going to the polls. That has changed: Now, just 26 percent of Democrats say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year, while 57 percent of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic.

About two in five Ohio voters overall, and roughly the same percentage of independents, say they are more enthusiastic this year.

In another sign of greater enthusiasm among Ohio Republicans, 43 percent say they are paying a lot of attention to the campaign, while just 36 percent of Democrats say the same.

Fourteen percent of likely voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate supported by President Obama - but 26 percent said the president's support would make them less likely to support the candidate. A majority - 59 percent - say the president's position has no effect on how they would vote.

Most voters have made their choice in the governor's race, the poll suggests, with only about one in ten saying they remain undecided. Strickland is seen favorably by 31 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 36 percent, giving him a net disapproval rating. Kasich also has a net disapproval rating - 21 percent view him favorably and 25 percent unfavorably - but the survey suggests he remains unknown to a majority of voters.

Just one in five registered voters say Strickland has made progress on fixing Ohio's troubled economy, while 68 percent say he has made no progress. While Strickland also gets low marks when voters are asked if he has a plan to create jobs (only 29 percent say he does), Kasich fares even worse, with 23 percent saying he has a job-creation plan.

In the Senate race, meanwhile, 18 percent of likely voters and 21 percent of voters overall say they are undecided, good news for Fisher as he tries to catch Portman in the final weeks of the campaign. About seven in ten voters said they had no opinion of either candidate.

When it comes to the House of Representatives, the poll suggests Republicans hold a slight edge: If the midterm elections were held today, 43 percent of Ohio likely voters said they would vote for their Republican candidate, while 39 percent said they would vote for the Democrat. Sixteen percent aren't sure.

Just 29 percent of Ohio registered voters say their member of Congress deserves reelection; roughly half say it's time for someone new. The approval rating for Congress in Ohio is 16 percent, five points below the nationwide approval rating for Congress.

Only fifteen percent of Ohio's registered voters have a favorable view of Rep. John Boehner, the House Minority Leader who represents Ohio's eighth Congressional district. Sixteen percent view him unfavorably. Most are undecided or haven't heard enough.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's favorable rating in Ohio, meanwhile, is just 13 percent, and her unfavorable rating stands at 44 percent. Forty-one percent are undecided or haven't heard enough.

Early voting in Ohio began Tuesday. One in four likely Ohio voters says they plan to vote by mail or absentee.

Critical Contests: Interactive Map with CBS News' Election 2010 Race Ratings

Views of the President:


President Obama won the state of Ohio in 2008, but the state's residents currently do not view him favorably overall: The president's approval rating in Ohio stands at 43 percent, with 47 percent disapproving.

When it comes to the economy, the president's approval rating is just 38 percent (with 55 percent disapproving), while on job creation it is just 34 percent (with 59 percent disapproving).

Thirty-two percent of Ohio residents say the president has made progress in fixing the economy, while 61 percent say he has not. Thirty-seven percent say he has a clear plan for creating jobs, while 54 percent say does not.

Just 12 percent of the state's voters say Mr. Obama's economic programs, including the economic stimulus package, have helped them. More - 20 percent - say they have hurt. Two in three say they've had no effect.

Ohio residents are divided on whether Mr. Obama has changed Washington. Forty percent say he has changed it to some degree, and an additional nine percent say he has changed it a lot. But 48 percent say he has not changed Washington much, or not at all.

And more than half say they are at least somewhat disappointed with the Obama presidency. Thirty percent describe themselves as very disappointed, while 28 percent say they are somewhat disappointed. One in three is somewhat satisfied, while just seven percent are very satisfied.

The Economy:

There is no debate over the most important problem in Ohio, where the unemployment rate is above 10 percent: 70 percent of the state's voters volunteer jobs as the state's chief problem.

Nearly two in three say jobs in their community have decreased over the past two years, and more than half say local jobs will probably never come back.

Six in ten Ohioans are at least somewhat concerned that someone in their household will lose their job in the next year, including 35 percent who are very concerned.

Only one in five say their household income is more than enough to get by. Half say it is just enough to make ends meet, and 29 percent say it is insufficient to pay their bills. Forty-three percent say their financial situation is worse than it was two years ago, while just 15 percent say it is better.

Fifty-eight percent say the current recession in Ohio is a temporary downturn, while 35 percent say it is a permanent decline.

More than eight in ten rate the Ohio economy as bad, and three in four are dissatisfied or angry with the way things are going in their state. Sixty-nine percent say their state is on the wrong track.

Just eight percent of Ohioans say the stimulus package has already created jobs. Another 38 percent say it will eventually create jobs. Roughly half say it has not and will not.

In addition, about half also say the stimulus package has had no impact on Ohio's economy. Twenty-six percent say it has helped, while 20 percent say it has hurt.

Forty-seven percent of Ohioans say it is a good idea to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for those making more than $250,000, while 43 percent oppose letting them expire. Nationwide, 53 percent support letting the tax cuts expire for high-earners.

The health care law remains unpopular in Ohio, as it does across the country. Thirty-seven percent of Ohioans approve of the law, matching its approval rating nationwide; 51 percent disapprove.

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,114 adults in Ohio, interviewed by telephone September 23-27, 2010, including 973 registered voters, and 941 likely voters. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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