By Len Lazarick
According to a new poll, Maryland voters are almost evenly split on two of the hottest issues that could be on the ballot next year: same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
The Gonzales Research poll of 805 voters completed last week found that 48% favor and 49% oppose giving homosexual couples “the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples in areas such as tax exemptions, inheritance and pension coverage.”
The poll also asked if “children of immigrants who are not in the state legally should be given the opportunity to receive Maryland in-state tuition rates if they have graduated from a Maryland high school and their parents can prove they have filed Maryland state tax returns for the past three years.” Of poll respondents, 51% disagreed with the statement, while 48% agreed.
The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3.5%. The sharp divide among voters was reflected in the close votes on the two issues this year in the Maryland General Assembly.
African-Americans oppose gay marriage
The Senate passed the same-sex marriage bill 25-21, but House leaders pulled the bill after it appeared they might not have enough votes to pass it. This summer, Gov. Martin O’Malley pledged his full support for the measure, promising to make it part of his 2012 legislative package.
Marylanders for Marriage Equality just launched a web video campaign kicked off by O’Malley. The Baltimore branch of the NAACP has joined the coalition in support of the measure, which might give it a needed boost.
The poll showed that while 64% of Democrats overall supported same-sex marriage, 59% of African Americans opposed it. Pollster Patrick Gonzales called this “the political predicament for proponents,” since African-Americans are typically the party’s “most consistent constituency.”
Four out of five Republicans (79%) oppose gay unions, and independents are about evenly split.
Most Republicans, independents oppose immigrant tuition
The bill granting in-state tuition to children in this country illegally was passed by legislators and signed by the governor, but it was petitioned to referendum, stopping its enforcement until voters decide on the matter in 2012.
The poll results reflected the proportion of signatures on the petitions to stop the measure. Three-quarters of Republicans (74%) were opposed, as were more than a third of Democrats (37%) and slightly more than half of independents (54%).
If same-sex marriage passes the General Assembly in 2012, it is also expected to be the subject of a petition drive that would put it on the ballot.
Voters favor gambling expansion but not more slots
On an issue that has not been much debated in Annapolis, 55% of voters opposed increasing the number of slot machines in the state and expanding the number of locations beyond the current five authorized. Only two of the five designated sites are currently operating, with one under construction. Democrats (54%) and Republicans (60%) were about equally opposed to expanding slots.
But a bare majority (51%) would support expansion of gambling to table games such as poker and blackjack, including some who opposed the expansion of slots.