- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 23, 2016

More than a year into his first term, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan maintains high popularity in staunchly Democratic Maryland, despite recent friction with Democratic members of the state legislature.

A poll released Tuesday by Goucher College found that 63 percent of Marylanders approve of Mr. Hogan’s performance as governor. Only 17 percent of respondents disapproved of how he was doing his job and 21 percent didn’t know.

His approval is up from Goucher’s October poll, where he had 58 percent approval.

His support cut across all parties, races and genders, with 86 percent of Republicans surveyed and 50 percent of Democrats surveyed approving of his performance. Mr. Hogan had a high approval rating among blacks, 49 percent of whom said they approved of his performance, but much higher among whites, 71 percent of whom approved.

State lawmakers did not fare so well with those surveyed. Forty-four percent of respondents approved of the job the General Assembly has done, 31 percent disapproved and 23 percent weren’t sure. They did have more support from Democrats, 56 percent of whom approved of their performance, than from Republicans, 29 percent of whom approved.

Despite Mr. Hogan’s high approval ratings, those surveyed did not have such a positive view of the state Republican Party as a whole, with respondents consistently ranking Democrats as better managing the state government, governing in a more honest and ethical way and more willing to be bipartisan. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state 2 to 1 and hold majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

Sixty-nine percent of Marylanders surveyed said the state is heading in the right direction, and 24 percent think the state is heading down the wrong track. Forty-two percent of respondents said they would leave the state if they had the opportunity, a slight drop from the 47 percent of respondents of said that two years ago when Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, was governor.

Mr. Hogan’s high approval rating is good news for the first-term Republican governor, who has recently come under fire from Democratic lawmakers for ignoring minority populations in the state and not funding Democratic priorities. He made a plea for bipartisanship during his State of the State Address three weeks ago, but since then has clashed heavily with legislative Democrats.

“Governor Larry Hogan continues to earn high marks from Marylanders — this sustained support is particularly impressive given the partisan lean of the state,” Mileah Kromer, director of the Goucher Poll, said. “If the recent mutual frustrations between the governor and the Democratic-dominated legislature have demonstrated anything, it’s that a very popular Republican governor and a heavily Democratic state is perfect fodder for a fiery legislative session.”

The poll also took Marylanders’ temperatures on high-profile policy issues:

• Forty-nine percent of all Marylanders surveyed said they think the police treat everyone equally in their communities, but only 38 percent of blacks agreed. That number was higher among whites, with 57 percent agreeing.

• Blacks and whites were also split on whether police in their community are held accountable for misconduct. Fifty-eight percent overall agreed with that, but only 39 percent of blacks agreed.

• Eighty-five percent of all Marylanders said police should be required to wear body cameras. Among blacks, 96 percent thought so.

• Respondents ranked education as the most important issue facing the state. Two-thirds of those surveyed said the state government spends “too little” on public education, and 24 percent said the state spends “about the right amount.”

• Education was followed by jobs and employment (13 percent), economic growth and development (13 percent), and taxes (9 percent) as top concerns.

• Views on marijuana legalization have held steady, with about 54 percent of respondents supporting legalization — nearly identical to the poll’s findings last February. Thirty-nine percent said they oppose marijuana legalization.

• Three-quarters of Marylanders said they prefer a system where congressional and legislative districts are drawn in the state by an independent commission, something Mr. Hogan has been pushing during his tenure in office. Twenty percent said they preferred the current system of the state’s elected officials drawing the lines.

• In regards to transportation, 56 percent of respondents said the state government should put their focus on improving roads and highways, and 39 percent said public transportation should be the priority.

The Goucher Poll surveyed 545 Maryland residents between Feb. 13-17, of which 85 percent said they were registered to vote in the state. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent.

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