Poll: Slight majority still supports death penalty; overwhelming support for gun control measures

By Len Lazarick

Gun rally signsAs delegates debate a bill abolishing the death penalty already passed in the Senate, a new Goucher College poll finds a slight majority of Marylanders (51%) oppose ending executions — even though many overestimate how often it is used and a majority says it does not deter murder and would prefer life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

On the other hot issue still awaiting action by the House Judiciary Committee, an overwhelming majority of Marylanders — more than four out of five — support the major provisions of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control proposal, despite the fierce opposition of a gun-owning minority that has flooded Annapolis hearing rooms.

Surprisingly, even in the one-third of households that have a gun owner, there was majority support for the most controversial provisions of the O’Malley package — requiring a license and fingerprinting to get a handgun.

The sharpest divide is between gun and non-gun owners on the proposal to ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, with a majority of gun owners opposing the bans.

Mixed reviews for O’Malley, legislature

The citizens rating the governor and legislators making these decisions gave them very mixed reviews. Almost as many people had an unfavorable view of O’Malley (45%) as had a favorable view (46%), though his job performance rated slightly higher, with 47% approving and 43% disapproving.

For the General Assembly, 38% approved of the job it is doing, while 38% disapproved and a quarter of citizens said they didn’t know.

Sixty-four percent of residents believe they can trust the state government to do what is in the public’s interest “some” or “all” of the time.

How the poll was done and full poll results

The Goucher survey by its Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center was conducted last week, March 3-7, contacting 791 respondents by phone, 35% of them by cell phone.  The poll has a margin of error of 3.48% and unlike other polls, it contacts all citizens, not just registered or likely voters.

The full results of the poll can be found here and the cross-tab of gun control results from gun and non-gun households can be found here.

About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Karol Hancock

    I can not believe this poll at all, I do not know one person that agreed with the gun ban. OMalley has the figures skewed to suit himself. Maryland has become a state that you can not believe a word the government says. They are so corrupt they just put anything out there and expect us to swallow it, hook line and sinker. This is extremely disgusting.

  2. Guest

    Misinformation and wrong information in polls slanted to skew the results but leaving out key information pertinent to the questions asked is weak, hence the reference above. Many politically uninformed gun holders in New York fell into that trap, and all the hunters that figured they would be unaffected are raising hell now that they find the laws passed go after even some of their “precious right to hunt rifles”. How many people in the poll even knew what the proposed requirements and fees were connected to getting a license to “purchase” a weapon. Did they know the wait time in New York Counties are at least 8 months to get a license approved under their new laws? Imagine someone telling you you need to wait 8 months for ADT to install a security alarm.

    I have seen very few informed members of the media that have written an article about guns or behind a poll that seems to know anything about firearms. What is an “assault weapon”? If someone hits someone with a bat with the intention of inflicting pain is that assault? Does that make the bat an “assault weapon”? “Under Maryland law, a person is guilty of assault in the first degree if he/she causes “serious physical injury” to another person.” At least let’s be honest; the public perception of the term “assault weapon” promoted by politicians and the media have nothing in common with the rifles the military use except they shoot bullets and look similar. Yet we hear comments about “spraying 100s of rounds in minutes from the hip” from high capacity magazines in firearms that are not designed for and are incapable of doing so.

    These laws only pave the way for the banning of handguns and total ban of firearms and I’ll tell you why; AR-15s and rifles in general are responsible for a minute amount of murders across the country. In a few years the politicians will focus on handgun murders (which a major percentage is caused by someone with a previous criminal record) and determine that we need to ban handguns. Why? Because people are not responsible enough to make a decision if they are too “unhealthy” to purchase a sugar soft drink over 16 ounces; well at least according to some in political power.

  3. Angie Boyter

    Looking at the comments, my reaction is: Why are you shooting the messenger? Goucher’s Field Politics Center is not exactly a biased organization.

  4. Henry Chinery

    The death penalty, even if not actually used serves a purpose. Murderers facing the death penalty will cut a deal for life without parole to avoid the possibilty of getting a death sentence. That saves everyone time and money. I believe there should be mandatory DNA testing of evidence if there is any to be tested. I also believe police and prosecutors who knowingly withhold or suppress exculpatory evidence should face the same penalties as the person they tried to screw. There are too many cases where people are wrongly convicted and the authorities knew they weren’t guilty. Remember Mike Nifong and the Duke Lacrosse team?

  5. Henry Chinery

    4000 of us showed up to testify against the Senate Gun bill in February. Over 1300 aginst the House version on March 5th vs 32 who testified for the bill. Why poll low information voters at all. If they can’t be bothered with actually voting then who cares what they have to say. They haven’t even researched the issue and are just parroting what the media. like yours, feeds them

  6. Guest

    What do you support Len? Maybe that will explain the slant of your article. I’m sure if you poll a group of people whether the military should get a salary increase they would vote in support of, as long as you leave out the important fact their taxes would increase.

    • lenlazarick

      What I support is giving people information they don’t have.

  7. GMueller

    Why were there 2,500 to 3,000 protesters opposed to the firearms bills in Annapolis on February 6th and another 1,500 to 2,000 protesters opposed to the firearms bills in Annapolis for the March 1st hearings if 85% of Marylanders are in favor? In contrast there were only about 20 people protesting for the repeal of the death penalty.

    • lenlazarick

      In the largest demonstration I’ve ever seen in Annapolis, 12,000 state employees and teachers in 2011 opposed changes to their pensions. They lobbied the legislature heavily, but lost. On a low profile issue, a number of people coming to the State House can be significant. But in a high profile issue, the legislators are also in contact with the people back home.

  8. abby_adams

    Sorry Len, I can’t buy a poll that only reached 1.34% of the 5,884,563 MD population as stated by US Census for 2012. Granted some of the findings are interesting but not definitive.

    • snowmaggedoned

      I sure didn’t get polled by this organization…..how about you?

  9. 20thMass

    What a load of junk that “poll” must be! Easy to expose, ask 5 people anywhere (mall, grocery store,, work) see how many times you get 4 out of 5 to agree. Load the stats with a targeted audience and then you see a shift. Stop reporting bogus polls that mean nothing.

  10. Jennifer Stapleton

    Why is the photo you used so out of line with what your article says?

    • lenlazarick

      Among many things, the article says many people opposed gun control. This was one of those pictures.

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