COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- Less than a year from the 2014 election, Ohio Gov. John Kasich's lead over his Democratic rival is narrowing. A Quinnipiac Poll found Kasich with a 44 - 37 percent lead over a largely unknown Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. This is down from a 47 - 33 percent lead for Gov. Kasich in a June 25 survey.

Kasich leads 88 - 4 percent among Republicans and 43 - 31 percent among independent voters, while Democrats go to FitzGerald 74 - 7 percent. Men back the Republican 48 - 35 percent while women are divided with 39 percent for Kasich and 38 percent for FitzGerald.

48 percent of Ohioans think Kasich deserves a second term.

Kasich's approval rating is at 52 percent, down from his high of 54 percent in June. 33 percent say they disapprove of the job the Republican is doing.

"Ohio Gov. John Kasich enters his reelection year with only a 7-point lead over a largely unknown challenger. On the plus side, his approval ratings mark a huge turnaround from his first two years, when his job approval was in the 30s and Democrats were licking their chops at the prospect of making him a one-termer," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "But he's below the 50 percent mark in the matchup and on whether he deserves reelection."

47 percent say Kasich is "about right" on the political spectrum, while 10 percent say he is too liberal and 27 percent say he is too conservative. Voters say 53 - 33 percent he is honest and trustworthy and approve of the way he is handling the economy by a 50 - 39 margin. Kasich also gets a narrow 44 - 40 percent approval for handling the state budget.

Ed FitzGerald still has a lot of work to do over the next year. 71 percent say they don't know enough about the Democrat to form an opinion of him.

"It will take a lot of money and time for the Cuyahoga County Executive to reach those voters, but introducing himself to them is his job one," Brown added. "While FitzGerald is trying to define himself, Kasich can be expected to spend a pretty penny trying to negatively define the Democrat."

Voters are divided on whether FitzGerald has the right kind of experience to be governor, with 26 percent saying yes, 27 percent saying no and 47 percent undecided. Fifty percent of voters or more can't decide where FitzGerald is on the political spectrum or whether he is honest and trustworthy.

Kasich has taken a lot of lumps from fellow Republicans over Medicaid expansion which is part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called ObamaCare. Pollsters found that 51 percent of Ohio voters think it's a good idea while 40 percent don't agree. 71 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents back the idea, while 65 percent of Republicans oppose it.

Because of Kasich's decisions to expand Medicaid eligibility, 23 percent are less likely to vote for him, with 19 percent more likely and 54 percent who say it won't affect their vote.

"Because of Kasich's Medicaid expansion, 24 percent of Republicans say they are less likely to vote for him. History tells us, however, that many of those alienated party members come home on Election Day because they find the other candidates less palatable," Brown said.

From November 19 - 24, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,361 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points. Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.