DETROIT (AP) _ The Japanese automaker Honda on Wednesday rejected a union recognition request by the United Auto Workers, setting the stage for an election at the company's plants in Ohio.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s Ohio subsidiary said it polled about 2,600 workers at its auto assembly and motorcycle assembly plants outside Marysville, Ohio, and 73.2 percent ''advised the company to reject'' the union demand made last week.

Joe Tomasi, the head of the UAW's Region 2B in Toledo, Ohio, dismissed the polling as ''p.r. and propaganda'' and said the rejection was ''no surprise to us.''

The UAW already has filed for a union recognition election with the National Labor Relations Board, Tomasi said, adding: ''Just because Honda said no doesn't end the ballgame.''

The union demanded recognition last week after announcing that the number of workers having signed union cards was above the 30 percent needed to seek recognition.

UAW officials wouldn't say how many cards they have. But the union generally doesn't risk an election without having signed up more than half the work force. A simple majority is needed to win union recognition.

The plant produces the Honda Accord, and is being expanded to include the Honda Civic.

Shige Yoshida, executive vice president of the Ohio subsidiary Honda of America Motor Manufacturing Inc., issued a statement saying the poll was the company's way of letting its workers take part in ''this important decision for our company.''

Al Kinzer, the company's senior manager for administration, said the workers polled represent the production workers the UAW seeks to represent.

The union also is seeking to unionize an associated Honda engine plant in Anna, Ohio, as part of the same bargaining unit.

The only other major, non-union auto assembly plant in the United States also is Japanese-owned - by Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. in Smyrna, Tenn.

The UAW has been trying to organize Honda for about five years but has found the going slow among the rural workforce.