By Len Lazarick
In-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants appears safely headed for passage on the November ballot, according to a new statewide poll. Opinion on the same-sex marriage question is closer yet trending toward approval, but expansion of gambling may have difficulty passing in a tight vote.
The Gonzales research poll taken this past week also found Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin with a comfortable 50% lead in his reelection bid against Republican Dan Bongino and independent Rob Sobhani, who are splitting the opposition. President Barack Obama, as expected, is far ahead of Gov. Mitt Romney in Maryland, with the support of 55% of those polled and 8% undecided.
Those are some of the findings in a new Maryland poll taken Sept. 17-23 by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies that surveyed 813 likely voters with a margin of error of 3.5%. Here are the full results of the poll.
On the so-called Dream Act granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who have graduated from Maryland high schools, 58% of Marylanders say they will vote for Question 4, 34% say they will vote against and 8% are undecided. Pollster Patrick Gonzales said, “Support for Question 4 is very high among Democrats and African- Americans, which is a winning combination in Maryland.”
The poll found three out of four Democrats (75%) support the tuition question, along with 70% of African-Americans, and 67% of women. Republicans are the only group strongly opposed to the idea, with 62% against.
Numbers are far closer on the issue of same-sex marriage, with opposition among African-Americans helping to drag down strong support by two-thirds of Democrats and independents.
Statewide, 51% of voters say they will vote for Question 6, while 43% say they are opposed and 6% are undecided. Among African-Americans, 44% are for it, while 52% are against. But Gonzales notes that black support is up from the January survey when only 33% favored same-sex marriage, suggesting that support for the issue by President Obama and other influential black leaders has helped shift opinion.
Again, only Republicans are strongly opposed (75%), and a slight plurality of men (48%).
These numbers on same-sex marriage are not as positive as polls released by groups supporting the issue, but they are trending in the same direction.
The contest to allow a sixth casino in Maryland and table games in all of them is close, with 45% of Maryland voters supporting the expansion, 46% opposed and 9% undecided. African-Americans again are the swing vote, with only 31% favoring the idea, and 64% opposed, compared to 51% of Democrats as a whole in favor of the proposition.
This divergence on the issue between white and black Democrats, Gonzales said, “could present an obstacle on Election Day for supporters of expanded gaming in Maryland.”
Gambling interests on both sides have already committed over $20 million to persuade voters, and “additional million of dollars will be spent by both sides over the next six weeks trying to get their position over the finish line first in what is a close contest,” Gonzales said.
Intensity of support
The poll also sought to gauge intensity of support for these ballot questions among people who said they were likely to get out to vote. Gonzales found that there was greater intensity among supporters of same-sex marriage and in-state tuition, but opponents of expanded gambling were more intense in their opposition than supporters.
The economy continues to be the top issue in the state, as it has been for the last three years, with 46% listing it as their top concern, a number only slightly down from 49% in January and its peak of 62% in September 2011.
As “one of the most reliably ‘blue’ states over the past 20 years,” Gonzales found 54% of voters had a favorable opinion of the president, and 50% had an unfavorable opinion of Romney.
Support for Obama is strongest among Democrats (81%), women (62%) and independents (59%), a group where he has a two-to-one advantage. “Gov. Romney labors under a huge deficit among female voters in Maryland,” Gonzales said.
Independent Rob Sobhani was not even a factor in the U.S. Senate race until he got 77,000 signatures to put him on the ballot in August, then began spending millions of his own money on TV ads. The advertising has placed him neck-and-neck with Republican Dan Bongino, the ex-Secret Service agent who has been campaigning for 16 months. Bongino has 21.6% support and Sobhani has 20.9%, with Cardin far in the lead with 49.8%.
Cardin enjoys 74% support among Democrats, but he and Sobhani are almost even among independents with 39% and 38%, and Bongino far behind at 10%. Bongino only has a real edge among Republicans, but even there, Sobhani, who made a fortune in the international oil trade and has run for the Senate as a Republican, enjoys 22% support.