- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006

A poll shows that Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s job-approval rating has climbed four percentage points since October as the General Assembly prepares to open tomorrow.

The poll by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies shows that the approval rating for Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, has risen to 53 percent this month from 49 percent in October, which had been his lowest approval level since taking office in 2003.

“It kind of bounced back to where it has been the three years he’s been in office,” said Patrick Gonzales, president of the nonpartisan polling firm.

He attributed the governor’s approval slump to “drag” from the plummeting popularity of President Bush, who since has rebounded in the polls.

“The other thing is the governor has taken initiative the last couple of weeks and that seems to be doing him some good,” Mr. Gonzales said, referring to Mr. Ehrlich’s plans to increase policing of child molesters and spend more on higher education.

Mr. Ehrlich’s disapproval rating also fell, from 42 percent in October to 36 percent this month.

Gonzales Research conducted the survey of 828 registered Maryland voters Wednesday through Sunday. The poll’s margin for error is no more than 3.5 percentage points, the firm said.

“Obviously, when the governor has a majority [favorable] job-approval rating, it is a good day,” Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said yesterday after receiving a preview of the poll.

“That being said, the poll that matters most occurs in November 2006 when the governor will be judged on his performance during the past four years,” she said.

The survey shows that 85 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents approve of Mr. Ehrlich’s performance.

About 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women approve of the governor’s job performance. Mr. Ehrlich had a 58 percent approval rating among white voters and 36 percent among blacks.

Gonzales pollsters recorded the highest job-approval rating for Mr. Ehrlich — 57 percent — in August 2003. The October poll was the firm’s only survey to register Mr. Ehrlich’s approval rating below 50 percent.

Mr. Ehrlich’s plan to legalize slot-machine gambling is supported by 49 percent of voters, with 44 percent opposing it, the survey shows.

Democratic House leaders have defeated the governor’s slots bill for three consecutive years.

The poll also shows that most voters want the legislature to override Mr. Ehrlich’s vetoes of bills that would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $6.15 per hour and require large companies to pay a minimum level of employee health care benefits.

According to the survey, 62 percent of Marylanders support an override of the minimum-wage veto and 55 percent support an override of the health-benefits veto.

The legislature is expected to vote to overturn the vetoes tomorrow.

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