Poll: Unpopular gas tax hike drives down O’Malley approval; Brown leads in gov race; Jon Cardin ahead for AG

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By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

Gov. Martin OMalleyOverwhelming voter disapproval of a gas tax hike earlier this year has helped drive Gov. Martin O’Malley’s job approval rating below 50% for the first time in three years, a new poll found.

The Gonzales Research poll also found marginal support, 49% to 44%, for the repeal of the death penalty O’Malley pushed, but wider support for the gun control measures the governor also backed, 58% to 40%.

The results on guns and the death penalty exhibited a sharp partisan divide, with Democrats strongly approving of O’Malley and his legislative initiatives, while Republicans were strongly opposed.

Among Democratic voters, O’Malley’s political partner, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown has a wide lead in the race to succeed O’Malley as governor over Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur, but a third of Democrats are still undecided. The results were 41% for Brown, 21% for Gansler and 5% for Mizeur. This is similar to the results of an internal Brown poll released earlier this month.

Attorney General candidates talked to the Building Trades Unions in September. From left, Del. Jon Cardin, Sen. Brian Frosh, Dels. Aisha Braveboy and Bill Frick.

Attorney General candidates talked to the Building Trades Unions in September. From left, Del. Jon Cardin, Sen. Brian Frosh, Dels. Aisha Braveboy and Bill Frick.

In the Democratic race for attorney general, Del. Jon Cardin had a clear lead with 25% support, versus 13% for Sen. Brian Frosh, 8% for Del. Aisha Braveboy, and 5% for Del. Bill Frick, but almost half are undecided.

“Cardin seems to be benefitting from his popular uncle, Senator Ben Cardin,” said pollster Patrick Gonzales. Sen. Cardin is not on the ballot next year.

The poll was conducted from Oct. 1 to Oct. 14 by telephoning 819 likely voters. The margin of error is 3.5%. For the Democratic primary survey, the pollsters contacted an oversampling of 403 Democrats who said they were likely to vote in the June 2014 primary. There is a margin of error of 5% in the primary results.

Gonzales has been polling in Maryland for 30 years, and his firm Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies releases public opinion surveys to media outlets two or three times a year.

O'Malley job approvalO’Malley used political capital

“It appears Governor O’Malley spent some political capital during this past legislative session, as his job rating has dropped since January,” Gonzales commented.

O’Malley went from 54% in January to 48% approval while 48% disapprove. These were not the lowest job approval ratings of his two terms as governor, which occurred in January and March of 2008, following a 2007 special session that raised income, sales and corporate taxes.

Two-thirds of Democrats approve of O’Malley’s performance, while four out of five Republicans (83%) disapprove. Independents are split, with 46% approving, and 51% disapproving.

Three out of four Democrats (76%) strongly support the new gun control licensing and training measures that went into effect this month, while a similar proportion of Republicans (71%) are opposed. Overall, 47% of voters surveyed strongly approve the measure, while 30% strongly disapprove.

Almost three out of five voters “strongly” disapprove of the gas tax increase which will go up over the next three years. This is one of the few issues that unites a majority of Democrats (68%), Republicans (90%) and independents (76%), as well as a majority of blacks (68%) and whites (79%).

There is also a partisan divide on the repeal of the death penalty which went into effect Oct. 1, the poll found.

Partisan divide on Obamacare

The strongest partisan and racial divide showed up on Obamacare, which Republicans hate (82%) and Democrats love (82%), with strongest support among African American voters (87%).

African American Democrats also helped push Brown to his lead, with 56% already supporting his candidacy to become the state’s first black governor and a quarter undecided. Brown and Gansler split the white vote 29% to 28%, but Brown leads in all the regions of the state.

On only two issues do Maryland voters show similar attitudes regardless of political affiliation. More than four out of five are concerned about the government shutdown’s effect on the U.S. economy. A majority also opposes “taking military action against Iran in order to prevent them from producing a nuclear weapon.”