The poll's director expects Tim Hagan to continue to chip away at Gov. Bob Taft's lead.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A statewide poll released today showing Gov. Bob Taft with an 18-point lead over Tim Hagan, his Democratic opponent, contradicts two recent newspaper polls that indicate a much closer race between the two candidates.
Eric W. Rademacher, director of the Ohio Poll, which has Taft leading Hagan 53 percent to 35 percent, said the significant differences between his poll and the two newspaper polls are a result of who is defined as likely voters in each of the three surveys.
Rademacher said the Ohio Poll, sponsored by the University of Cincinnati, has tougher standards regarding who is a likely voter compared with the telephone poll done by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research for The Plain Dealer, which has Taft ahead of Hagan by 11 percent; and the mail poll conducted by The Columbus Dispatch, which has Taft leading by 8 percent.
"We won't find out who's got the best 'likely voter' definition until Election Day," Rademacher said.
The Ohio Poll results, released today, show Hagan is closing the gap. Hagan trailed Taft by 29 percent in April and by 23 percent in July. The poll has a 4.2 percent margin of error for the governor's race.
Rademacher expects Hagan to continue to eat into Taft's lead in future Ohio Polls.
The latest poll lists 7 percent of those polled as undecided. Traditionally, many undecided voters will gravitate toward the challenger, which will help Hagan, Rademacher said. Also, 26 percent of those who identify themselves as Democrats say they will vote for Taft, a Republican. Rademacher expects that number to decline as the Nov. 5 election draws near.
John Eastman, an independent candidate, received 5 percent of the vote in today's poll.
Taft's name recognition is at 99 percent, the highest of any statewide candidate in the poll. Hagan has name recognition with 73 percent of those polled, and Eastman has name recognition with 40 percent.
Also, Taft's net favorability rating, the percentage of those who have a favorable opinion of him minus the percentage of those who have an unfavorable opinion of him, is 36 percent. Hagan's net favorability rating is 15 percent, and Eastman's is 3 percent.
"We try not to pay too much attention to polls, but obviously, we're pleased with the results," said Orest Holubec, Taft's campaign spokesman. "We expect the race to tighten."
The July poll had Taft leading Hagan 49 percent to 38 percent among likely voters in Northeast Ohio, where Hagan resides and is what he considers his strongest area. Today's poll shows that Hagan has surpassed Taft in Northeast Ohio, leading the governor 46 percent to 41 percent in that area. Hagan trails Taft by only 2 percent, 41 percent to 39 percent, in Southeast Ohio. He is significantly behind Taft in the rest of the state.
The poll shows that the state treasurer's race between Joseph T. Deters, the Republican incumbent, and Democrat Mary Boyle is the most competitive. Boyle leads Deters 46 percent to 44 percent; the two were in a dead heat with 40 percent each in the July poll. The Plain Dealer poll had Boyle ahead by 3 percent.
Because the poll has a 4.2 percent margin of error, the race is a statistical tie, Rademacher said.
Boyle has stronger name recognition than Deters, 75 percent to 56 percent, the poll shows.
The telephone poll of 537 likely voters on the state races was conducted Sept. 4 through Sunday.
Republican candidates have double-digit leads over their Democratic counterparts in the races for auditor, attorney general and secretary of state.
The poll shows Ohio Supreme Court Judge Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, a Republican, with a small lead over Janet Burnside, her Democratic challenger. Judge Stratton leads Burnside 26 percent to 23 percent, with 51 percent of voters undecided.
In the other Supreme Court race, Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor, a Republican, leads Democrat Tim Black 56 percent to 22 percent, with 23 percent of those polled undecided.