The Maryland Poll: January 2003 Pre-Legislative Survey
In Potomac’s latest poll of Maryland voters, conducted for the Baltimore Sun and released on the opening day of the Maryland General Assembly session, voters express ambivalence about legalizing slot machines in the state, exhibit continued strong support for environmental protection, and offer no clear direction for lawmakers to solve Maryland’s looming budget crisis.
The Maryland Poll was conducted among 1,200 voters statewide December 30, 2002 – January 4, 2003. The poll has a maximum potential sampling error of ± 2.8%.
A plurality of voters approve of the legalization of slots, a number that has held steady and declined slightly during the 2002 campaign. If slots are to be legalized, two-thirds of voters assert they would rather consider the matter on the next general election ballot, rather than having the General Assembly decide the issue during the current session.
While education continues to be the top concern of voters, the state’s fiscal situation has zoomed into second position on the list of issues the public wants addressed, with the state’s economy ranking third. Voters are not willing to support new taxes, except perhaps a dedicated 10-cent gas tax increase in traffic-choked Montgomery County, and a temporary income tax increase on the state’s highest-income citizens. Meanwhile, most voters predict the new governor will not be able to hold to his pledge to keep taxes in check.
Despite the fiscal crisis, about one-half of Maryland voters want the Thornton Commission recommendations enacted, either by raising taxes or dramatically cutting other state programs to pay for the new school aid. Meanwhile, voters are giving their local schools the best marks measured in the last four years.
A majority of Marylanders would be willing to see state money used to supply health insurance to those who do not now have it, and three-quarters would oppose large budget cuts in the areas of higher education and environmental spending.
The death penalty moratorium remains a deeply controversial issue in the state, and gun control is a slightly preferred alternative to an expanded death penalty for preventing future violent crime in Maryland.
As his eight years in office come to a close, Gov. Parris Glendening has experienced a significant slide in his job approval rating. Now two-to-one negative, the governor’s job approval has taken the most significant dip since October among members of his own party.
The new governor, Bob Ehrlich, has by contrast a dramatically improved personal favorability rating compared to his numbers during the campaign, with two-thirds of voters now viewing him favorably. More than half of voters say they are confident he will do a good job, which is ten points higher than the new President Bush scored on the same question two years ago.
Martin O’Malley remains a formidable presence in the Baltimore area, while Doug Duncan must do much more to raise his visibility outside his home region if he plans to be a serious contender in the next round of statewide elections.
Looking ahead to the 2004 election for Senate, Barbara Mikulski appears to start off in a strong position, enjoying a three-to-one positive favorability rating, nearly identical to her profile during her last election year of 1998.
William Donald Schaefer continues to be a popular figure in Maryland, scoring some of the best numbers in this latest survey.
The President’s job approval in Maryland remains strong at 55%, which is about seven points below current national numbers. On the critical question of whether he should be re-elected, however, President Bush scores 39% in Maryland, well below the magical 50% threshold candidates look for at this stage of their re-election effort, and about ten points below comparable national numbers.
Fewer than four in ten Maryland voters support military action against Iraq, and only one-quarter say they feel safer from terrorism compared to one year ago. Only one-third believe President Bush is winning the war on terrorism.
In a hypothetical Democratic primary for President in 2004, Sen. Joseph Lieberman leads, with Sen. John Kerry a close second.
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