By Len Lazarick
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan remains far ahead of Democratic challenger Ben Jealous 52% to 37% in the third independent poll taken in the past two months.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy interviewed 625 likely voters by land-line and cell phone on Monday and Tuesday. The timing means some Marylanders were contacted before the one and only debate between the two contenders, which aired Monday night.
The results were similar to an August poll by Gonzales Research & Media Services which found Hogan ahead 52% to 36%, and to the Goucher College poll taken two weeks ago which found the spread between incumbent and challenger at 54% to 32%.
These results are within the standard margin of error based on sample size and statistical probability.
But the key result is that they all show Republican Hogan getting over half the vote in a very Democratic state, with substantial numbers of Democrats going with the incumbent.
“Hogan’s strength is largely a function of his personal popularity (64%) and his extremely high job performance rating,” said pollster Brad Coker in his analysis. “Statewide, 68% approve of Hogan’s job performance, while only 23% disapprove and 9% are unsure.”
This poll marks the 35th anniversary of the first poll by Mason-Dixon, the company Coker founded in Columbia in 1983.
While Hogan’s favorable to unfavorable ratio is 4 to 1, 64% to 16%, Jealous’s favorability ratio is almost even at 35% favorable to 31% unfavorable, a bad situation for any candidate. This reflects the millions spent on negative TV advertising against him by the Republican Governors Association and the Hogan campaign.
Jealous until recently did not have the campaign funds to respond to the negative ads which cast him as a big spender who would raise taxes and is too far left for Marylanders.
According to Coker, Hogan is running strong in Western Maryland (73%-19%), the Eastern Shore (69%-22%), Central Maryland (64%-25%) and Baltimore County (62%-30%).
Jealous leads in Baltimore City (62%-26%), Prince George’s County (56%-23%) and Montgomery County (49%-41%), “but these margins are significantly smaller than most Democrats have achieved in recent state elections,” the pollster says.
Hogan leads among both men (58%-32%) and women (47%-41%). He is also ahead among voters under the age of 50 (46%-42%) and those 50+ (56%-33%).
Jealous is supported by African-American voters (70%-17%) and Democrats (57%-32%), “but Hogan is making considerable in-roads into his base,” Coker said. “Meanwhile, Hogan has huge margins among white voters (65%-25%), Independent voters (58%-26%) and Republicans (92%-3%).”
Coker said Hogan’s strength is largely a function of his personal popularity (64%) and his extremely high job performance rating. Statewide, 68% approve of Hogan’s job performance, while only 23% disapprove and 9% are unsure.
Democrats and Jealous have complained that the recent polls do not reflect “the blue wave” they are counting on — a higher than average turnout of Democratic voters based on their anger over President Trump.
Voter turnout is one of the areas that pollsters must estimate, guessing how many voters from each party will make up the November electorate.
Mason-Dixon pegs Democratic turnout at 56% of the electorate as does Gonzales (55.8%), Goucher estimates it at 61%. Democratic turnout as a percentage of the total voters in the past six elections in Maryland has been 55% in 2016 and 2014, 57% in 2006, 2010 and 2012; only in the 2008 election did it reach 58%, reflecting higher turnout by African Americans to vote for Barack Obama.