By Len Lazarick
Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley leads Republican ex-gov. Bob Ehrlich 47% to 42%, with only 6% of the electorate undecided, according to a Gonzales Research poll taken last week. Four percent will vote for one of the three minor-party candidates.
The poll of 816 likely voters interviewed by telephone last week is the latest survey in the past month to show O’Malley pulling ahead in the race, despite the fact that Gonzales expects Republican voter turnout to be higher than usual and Democrats to turn out in fewer numbers. The margin of error is 3.5%.
Gonzales’ analysis said Ehrlich’s eight-point lead in the Baltimore suburbs (49% to 41%) “is not enough to offset O’Malley’s tally in the Washington suburbs,” where the incumbent crushes Ehrlich 65% to 25%. While Ehrlich gets 85% of Republican voters, he gets just 17% of Democrats, and that “won’t do it,” the pollster said.
In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski has a commanding 17 point lead over Republican Eric Wargotz, winning 55% to 38% with only 7% undecided.
Favorability ratings for all of the candidates, especially for Ehrlich, are down due to a polarized electorate and negative campaign advertising.
“Among Maryland voters, 40% have a favorable opinion of Bob Ehrlich (down 6 points since July), 34% have an unfavorable opinion (up 9 points), and 25% have a neutral opinion,” the pollster said. “The O’Malley campaign’s media barrage against Ehrlich is having its intended effect…Two weeks before the election, Ehrlich has become the incumbent.”
O’Malley’s job approval rating remained steady at 48%, but his disapproval rating was up five points from July to 44%. Mikulski’s approval rating was down six points from July to 53%, and her disapproval rating was up eight points to 37%. But that’s a far cry from how voters viewed her 13 months ago, when two-thirds of Maryland voters (67%) liked the job she was doing, and less than a quarter (22%) disapproved.
Among likely Maryland voters, President Barack Obama’s disapproval rating edged up five points since July to 43%, but his approval rating stayed fairly even at 52%.
“The economy and jobs refuse to go away as the number one issue for Maryland voters, cited by a clear majority (55%),” Gonzales’ analysis said. This is a full 43 points ahead of the second-place issues: taxes and education.
As “even further evidence of a polarized electorate,” Gonzales found that 43% of voters say Maryland is moving in the right direction, and 42% say it is moving in the wrong direction. Two-thirds of Democrats say it’s going the right way, four out of five Republicans say it’s the wrong way, and independents are evenly divided.
Almost half of the voters polled think economic conditions in Maryland will be about the same next year as they are today, while 36% said they will be better, and 18% said they will be worse. Democrats are more optimistic about the future than Republicans. About half of Democrats said things will be better, but only 25% of Republicans felt that way.
Gonzales explained in unusual detail how he worked out the survey sampling based on past history of voter turnout. It is explained on page 7 of the survey results posted as an attachment at the bottom of this story. Gonzales predicts 1.9 million voters will vote in this election – 55% Democrats, 33% Republicans, and 12% independents.