The governor's disapproval rating is an all-time high.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Gov. Bob Taft's job performance rating plummeted to a three-year low in a state poll, but a majority of Ohioans approve of what he is doing.
Fifty-nine percent of those participating in the Ohio Poll, sponsored by the University of Cincinnati and released Thursday, approve of Taft's performance as governor. That is down from an approval rating of 69 percent in the previous poll taken in November.
The 59 percent rating is also the second-lowest for Taft in the poll's history. His approval rating was 49 percent in March 1999, two months after he took office. In that March 1999 poll, 43 percent said they had no opinion of Taft's job performance. Twenty percent had no opinion in the recent poll.
The 21 percent disapproval rating for Taft, a Republican, is his highest as governor in the history of the poll.
"Polls go up and down," said Orest Holubec, Taft's campaign press secretary. "These are tough times in Ohio. We're in a budget crisis right now and tough times require strong leadership. The governor's had to make some decisions that aren't very popular with everyone in the state, but that's what governors do."
The Ohio Poll has long been criticized by state Democrats as being slanted in favor of Republicans. Tim Hagan, Taft's Democratic opponent, repeated that statement, but said the poll does show that Ohioans are questioning the governor's ability to lead the state.
"This campaign now is whether the people of Ohio want to rehire Taft for another four years," Hagan said. "This is a referendum on Taft's four years. People are beginning to focus their attention on taking the measure of the guy now."
About the poll
The poll quested 823 Ohio adults April 4-20 and has a 3.4 percent margin of error.
An overwhelming majority of those approving of Taft's performance were unable to give specific reasons, typical of the governor's history in the poll.
Of those who approve of Taft's job performance, 20 percent said they don't know why, 11 percent he was "doing a good job (in general)," 8 percent said they "have not heard anything bad about him," and 2 percent said, "I just approve."
His position on education was given as the reason for disapproving of Taft by 5 percent of those polled, his economic policies, his position on concealed carry handguns, don't know, and he "has not done anything," each attracted 2 percent of the disapproval vote.
Despite the declining job performance numbers, an Ohio Poll released two weeks ago show Taft with a commanding 60-31 lead over Hagan.
"That is clearly an encouraging sign, but we're not taking anything for granted," Holubec said. "We're going to work hard to get the governor's message of better schools and higher paying jobs out to all Ohioans."
But Hagan said there is a lot of campaigning left to go.
"The dynamics of the campaign can change dramatically in six months," Hagan said. "Things are beginning to move our way in the sense that people are beginning to think, 'Now, they've got a shot at this.' Three to four months ago, people saw me as a long shot. People are now saying, 'Maybe he's got a shot at this,' not because of any great things I've done. It's because Taft is finally being measured."