Majority in new poll think Maryland is headed in wrong direction

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Sign photo above by Jack Zalium with Flickr Creative Commons License

By Len Lazarick

On a day that a new Washington Post poll had Republican Larry Hogan Jr. 9 points behind Anthony Brown in the race for governor, Hogan and the GOP could take some solace in a new Goucher College poll that said a majority of Marylanders believe the state is headed in the wrong direction.

The Goucher poll (full results here) also found that almost a third of Marylanders (31%) believed that their “personal financial situation” was worse than it was a year ago, and that the economy, jobs and taxes were the most important issues facing the state. Hogan has made these issues the keystones of his campaign.

However, most respondents had no more confidence that Republicans would handle those economic issues better than Democrats, and on social issues, the environment and education they expected Democrats to do better. The Washington Post poll found similar results on those issues.

Polls differ markedly in respondents, timing

While there were some points of comparison between the two polls, they differed markedly in whom they surveyed and when. From last Thursday through Sunday, The Post polled 1,005 adults, but reported only on the results of 807 likely voters.

The week before that, the Goucher poll interviewed 708 Marylanders regardless of their voting intentions, and it did not ask who respondents were voting for.

The two polls used both land lines and cell phones to contact respondents. Half of the respondents in the Goucher poll were contacted by cell phone. Some of the Post respondents were interviewed in Spanish.

The margin of error in the Goucher poll is 3.7%; in the Post poll it is 4%.

Both polls came at a time that the two candidates and their supporters had been running TV ads for weeks attacking their opponents.

Opinion of Hogan, Brown about even

Somewhat surprisingly, given the attack ads, Marylanders’ opinions of Hogan are about evenly divided (28% favorable, 27% unfavorable), but almost half (45%) don’t have an opinion either way. For Brown, it is 32% favorable and 35% unfavorable, with another third (32%) with no opinion. Goucher’s questions about the candidates did not mention their party.

“Without the respective party affiliations of the candidates given in the question, it appears many Marylanders are simply unsure how to rate Brown and Hogan,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher and a political science professor there. “This is not the case when asked about policy areas; Marylanders are sure and sometimes divided on which party is best equipped to handle some of the key campaign issues.”

“The clock is ticking for the candidates to tell Marylanders who they are and where they stand,” Kromer said.

The candidates first TV debate airs tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. on WJZ and Maryland Public Television.

In keeping with her commitment to full transparency, Kromer releases a detailed methodology of the polling techniques and survey methodology.

The Goucher poll results may not mirror the electorate that will actually vote, since turnout among young people and African Americans tends to be lower than their percentages in the total population.

O’Malley shouldn’t run for president

Almost two-thirds of Marylanders say Gov. Martin O’Malley shouldn’t run for president, a race he is currently exploring. Opposition to a presidential run was true regardless of gender, party or race, although Democrats and blacks were less opposed than others.

Opinions of O’Malley were about even (40% favorable, and 43% unfavorable). Women, Democrats and blacks have more favorable opinions of O’Malley.

Public school start after Labor Day

Seven out of 10 Marylanders (71%) favor starting the school year after Labor Day, a cause that is being pushed by Comptroller Peter Franchot. Support for the move includes both genders, all parties and races.

Ebola, Obama and Congress

In other poll results, two-thirds of Marylanders (66%) are “very” or “somewhat concerned” about an outbreak of Ebola in the United States; 44% believed Maryland is unprepared to handle such an outbreak. (The polling was done before state health officials publicized their preparations to handle such a disease.)

President Obama is still fairly popular in Maryland, with 54% approving of the job he is doing, the same number as a Goucher poll found a year ago.

Congress is still in the ratings doghouse, with 79% disapproving of the way it is handling its job. However, almost half of those polled (49%) approve of the way their own U.S. representative is handling the job.