- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Maryland residents remain closely divided over the Dream Act and same-sex marriage, but the strongly Democratic state overwhelmingly approves of party leaders Gov. Martin O'Malley and President Obama, according to a Gonzales research poll released Wednesday.

Of respondents in the telephone survey, 49 percent said they support legalizing gay marriage while 47 percent said they were opposed.

On the so-called Dream Act, which would allow some children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state college tuition rates, 48 percent agreed and 49 percent disagreed, within the poll’s 3.5 point margin of error.

“They are issues upon which attitudes are really sort of evenly divided in state,” said Patrick Gonzales, president of the research and marketing firm. “It’s been consistent over the last two months.”

The same-sex marriage bill narrowly failed in the 2011 General Assembly, but state Democratic leaders are expected to try to pass the legislation again this year. Maryland voters will decide about the Dream Act through a November ballot question.

The Arnold, Md.-based firm conducted the survey from Jan. 9 to 15, polling 808 registered Democratic, Republican and independent Maryland voters who vote regularly.

Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, has an approval rating of 53 percent, his second highest since taking office in 2007. The governor, in his second and final term, had a record-high rating of 58 percent in January 2011.

Among Democrats, Mr. O'Malley had a 75 percent approval rating, compared to 11 percent among Republicans and 55 among independents. His overall disapproval was 40 percent while 7 percent had no opinion.

The governor has especially strong support among women and blacks, who gave him approval ratings of 59 percent and 74 percent, respectively. However, he has an 85 disapproval rating among Republicans.

Mr. Gonzales said the governor “remains strong” despite his administration talking since summer about tax increases but “it took its toll” on Republican voters.

Respondents gave President Obama a 55 approval rating while 41 percent said they disapprove.

Among Democrats, 81 percent said they approve of Mr. Obama while 91 percent of Republicans disapproved. Independents largely sided with the president, with 61 percent approving and 36 percent disapproving.

While the poll showed Democrats and Republicans are divided on many issues, voters in both parties appear to be embracing the legalization of medical marijuana.

About 64 percent of respondents said they favor legal medical marijuana in Maryland, of which 39 percent said they strongly favor it.

Nearly 70 percent of Democrats said they support medical marijuana, and nearly 50 percent of Republicans said the same, compared to 46 percent who said they oppose it.

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