COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- The gap has widened in the race for Ohio governor, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac.
A poll released Wednesday morning shows Gov. John Kasich with a 50 - 35 percent lead over Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. That's up from the 43 - 38 percent margin the poll found in February.
Kasich's approval rating is 56 percent, his best score since being elected in 2010. 53 percent of Ohioans believe he deserves a second term.
“Ohio Gov. John Kasich has opened up a 15-point lead in his re-election race as voters give him sterling grades for his job performance, especially on the economy,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “He gets plus-50 percent approval ratings from voters on his handling of the economy and the state budget. These numbers are crucial because the economy and jobs are the most important issues in the minds of voters."
The governor has a large lead over FitzGerald among men and a 45 - 40 point lead among women. He also gets 92 percent of Republican support while leading 49- 32 among independents. 77 percent of Democrats back FitzGerald.
FitzGerald continues to battle a name recognition problem with 63 percent of Ohioans telling pollsters they don't know enough about him to form an opinion.
“Democratic optimists will argue that with six months until Election Day, FitzGerald has a golden opportunity to reach all those voters. He’s going to have to spend a lot of money on that introduction while the better-funded Kasich will introduce FitzGerald to those same voters in a much less flattering way.”
In an open-ended question, allowing for any answer, 37 percent of Ohio voters list the economy or jobs as the most important issue in this year’s governor’s race. Another 9 percent list education or education funding, with 6 percent citing the budget and government spending and 6 percent pointing to taxes.
Half of voters polled say Ohio's economy has improved over the last four years while 30 percent don't see a change and 18 percent think it has worsened.
“Voters think Gov. Kasich deserves another term and two-thirds consider him a strong leader. A small majority says he cares about their needs, a measure on which Republicans, even successful ones, often don’t do that well. And perhaps most important for Kasich’s re-election, 60 percent of voters are satisfied with the way things are going in the state,” Brown said.
The poll also measured support of the death penalty in Ohio. Nearly 7 in ten say they favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder. However, support drops to only 43 percent if the choice of life without parole is an option.
“Ohioans overwhelmingly support capital punishment, but the option of life in prison without parole tips the balance against the death penalty,” said Brown.
From May 7 - 12, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,174 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.