By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich's decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare has hurt him with some voters in his own party a year out from his re-election bid, a poll released on Tuesday found.
Kasich held a lead over a relatively unknown, presumed challenger, Cleveland-area Democrat Ed FitzGerald, the Quinnipiac University poll said. Kasich led FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, 44 percent to 37 percent.
About 24 percent of Republicans responding in the poll said they were less likely to vote for Kasich because he bypassed Ohio's Republican-dominated legislature in October and used a legislative panel to expand Medicaid.
Kasich opposes the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but wanted the $2.5 billion in federal money for his state that a Medicaid provision of the law provides.
Ohio is one of 25 states and the District of Columbia that is expanding Medicaid coverage, according to The Advisory Board Company, a health care consulting firm. Those states include Arizona and Michigan - also led by Republican governors.
Medicaid expansion is an important part of President Barack Obama's health reform law, which aims to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance.
Kasich's favorability rating dropped to 41 percent in the current poll from 47 percent in a June poll, though his job approval rating was 52 percent, close to the all-time high of 54 percent he had in the June poll, according to Quinnipiac.
Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said that though the Medicaid decision hurt Kasich among some voters, history shows that people in one party usually stick with it.
"Many of those alienated party members come home on Election Day because they find the other candidates less palatable," Brown said.
Among all voters, 51 percent agreed with the decision to expand Medicaid and 40 percent said it was a bad idea, the poll found. The results broke along party lines.
Twenty-eight percent of Republicans said the expansion was a good idea, compared with 74 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independent voters, the poll found.
Quinnipiac surveyed 1,361 registered Ohio voters on cell phones and land lines from November 19 to 24 for the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski)