Kasich Still Favored in Ohio Governor's Race

Kasich Still Favored in Ohio Governor's Race

By Sean Trende - September 29, 2010

Rasmussen Reports broke with the recent trend in the Ohio Governor's race polling, and shows John Kasich maintaining a healthy lead over Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland.  Rasmussen Reports shows Kasich leading Strickland by eight points, 50 percent to 42 percent.  This is essentially unchanged from a previous poll showing Kasich up 50 percent to 43 percent.

This result is actually consistent with other polls taken in recent days that show a much closer race.  Strickland's numbers in the September polling are remarkably stable:  42, 42, 43, 46, 45, 41, 43, 44, 37, 40, and 43.  Kasich's numbers, on the other hand are all over the place: 50, 43, 45, 47, 49, 47, 50, 51, 54, 52 and 48. 

To put it in statistical terms, the standard deviation of Kasich's numbers is quite a bit higher than that of Strickland's (especially if you exclude Quinnipiac's 54-37 result as an outlier).

There are three things to keep in mind here.  First, when we see numbers like these, what is usually going on is that "undecideds" are decidedly leaning one way or the other.  Pollsters that "push" undecideds harder will typically see higher numbers for the candidate those undecideds favor. 

Hence, regardless of how many undecideds there are in a given poll, Strickland polls around 42/43 percent, while Kasich's numbers bounce between 43 and 54.

Second, and consistent with the previous observation, we actually see quite a bit of stability in the apples-to-apples poll comparison -- in other words, looking at what pollsters find compared to their earlier iterations.  This is important, because different pollsters use different likely voter screens and push undecided voters in different ways.  If individual pollsters aren't finding movement, the changes in the RCP Average are likely attributable to changes in the mixture of pollsters in the Average, rather than actual movement.

Here, we see that Rasmussen moved to 50/42 Kasich from 50/43 Kasich.  FoxNews/Rasmussen moved to 45/43 Kasich from 47/41 Kasich, with an earlier entry of 48/43 Kasich.  The University of Cincinnati poll showing Kasich up four is actually an improvement from their earlier poll showing Strickland up 5 back in May.  The only pollster showing real movement was Reuters/Ipsos, which moved from 48/39 Kasich in August to 47/46 Kasich in September.

Third, and most importantly, the numbers you need to pay the most attention to here are Strickland's.  Incumbents under 50 percent at this point in the game usually do not win; incumbents under 45 percent almost never win.  Until Strickland consistently posts numbers in the 47/48 point range, he will be the underdog. 

Kasich is up by 4.2 points, 48 percent to 43.8, in the RCP Average.

Sean Trende is senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He is a co-author of the 2014 Almanac of American Politics and author of The Lost Majority. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SeanTrende.

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