Thursday, August 22, 2013

Governor John Kasich Plummets In Ohio...or does he? It's Quinnipiac vs. PPP, Again

Quinnipiac University's polling not only positioned Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) well for his 2014 re-election bid, but made him an ideal 2016 candidate - a popular governor from the most highly sought-after electoral prize in the country. But PPP poured cold water on that notion Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.

Public Policy Polling and Quinnipiac University are apparently butting heads again, this time in Ohio.

New survey findings on Ohio voters' attitudes towards their Governor and the 2014 Governor's race allow for only one of two conclusions: (1) either something near cataclysmic is taking place on the ground to cause Governor John Kasich's (R) job approval ratings & 2014 standing to tank, or (2) a couple of prolific polling firms are missing the mark in measuring Ohio public opinion.

See the new Ohio survey released by Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling Tuesday:

PPP survey of 551 "Ohio voters" from August 16-19, 2013, MoE: +/-4.2%

For recent observers of local Ohio political polling and current events, it seemed as though we had stepped back in time, 2011-12 to be exact.

Then, Governor John Kasich was struggling with the aftermath of prolonged high unemployment, an unpopular collective bargaining bill, and a powerful Obama reelection organization. In fact, from the start of Kasich's term in January 2011, through election day 2012, Gov. Kasich only averaged a 38/48% job approval rating, per PPP.

Other polling organizations also caught on to Kasich's abysmal approval numbers, though as usually the case with Republican politicians, to a lesser extent than PPP (he averaged a 40/43% rating with Quinnipiac during the same time period).

But starting in the fall of 2012, before the presidential election was held, most pollsters found Kasich's Administration experiencing a public opinion recovery. In fact, between the 2012 Republican National Convention and election day, an average of 12 non-PPP Ohio surveys from Quinnipiac, Rasmussen, University of Cincinnati, and Fox News found Gov. Kasich with a healthy 51/38% job approval rating. An average of 4 PPP surveys from the same period found Kasich with an average 43/41% rating.

Then following the election, as Ohio voters took note of a steadily lower unemployment rate, Quinnipiac found Kasich's numbers soaring, even as President Obama's fell. See the table below:

That's why this poll-watcher was left scratching his head with PPP's findings yesterday.  If you believe both Quinnipiac and PPP's results from June and August, then Governor John Kasich's job approval rating in Ohio has fallen a miraculous 27 points, from 54/32% to 42/47%. His approval is down 12 points, while his disapproval is up 15!

The bad news doesn't stop there for Gov. Kasich. If both pollsters are to be believed, then he isn't merely experiencing a collapse in approval ratings, he's also bleeding support in a hypothetical contest with Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald (D):

What was a 14 point deficit for the Democrat has turned into a 3 point LEAD.

So whats been going on in Ohio over the last two months to create near-seismic shifts in public opinion? More than you might think.

An ethics scandal came to a head, involving potential compensation payments to Gov. Kasich by an Ohio company receiving tax breaks, though the complaint was dismissed by the Ethics Commission.

A controversial abortion bill was signed into law.

And perhaps most significantly, economic gains made throughout 2012 have stagnated.

Yet still, 27 and 17 point net drops in job approval and 2014 ballot standing over two months is pretty steep. So let's examine the pool of respondents surveyed by Quinnipiac and PPP in their most recent Ohio polls, and how those pools differed in their support for Governor in 2014, and their feelings on Kasich's job performance.

The differences between PPP's August and Quinnipiac's June respondents couldn't be more stark, even allowing for the already large margins of error among age, racial/ethnic, and political groups. Not only that, but the electorates are shaping up a little differently as well.

For example, PPP finds an OLDER electorate than Quinnipiac. But that doesn't translate into stronger numbers for John Kasich because he's too far under water with middle-aged Ohioans (whereas he sits at a comfortable 53/35% job approval and 49-32% margin against Fitzgerald with middle-aged Ohioans per Quinnipiac).

PPP also finds a more Democratic electorate than Quinnipiac, as well as worse numbers across the board for Kasich. He wins a smaller percentage of Democrats and Republicans, and has a -18 job approval rating with Independent voters. Quinnipiac finds Kasich with a +19 job approval rating among Independents, creating a net 37 point difference in their findings!

Again, that's an incredible shift over just two months.

PPP also found a less white, more minority Ohio 2014 electorate, though not by a significant margin. Unfortunately, Quinnipiac did not provide a crosstab breakdown of their Ohio numbers among racial/ethnic groups.

For comparison's sake, below is a table of recent Ohio Presidential and Midterm electorates, broken down by age, race, and partisan ID:

There's ample evidence from past Ohio elections to suggest both PPP and Quinnipiac demographic/partisan finds are feasible in the 2014 Governor's race. The REAL difference lies in the level of support both pollsters find amongst these groups for Gov. Kasich. Quinnipiac finds him strong across the board. PPP finds him weak across the board with the exception of traditionally Republican voters.

It's entirely believable that recent events on the ground in Ohio have caused some erosion in Gov. Kasich's support. But to the extent Quinnipiac and PPP would suggest? That seems a little unlikely.

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