- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Maryland voters' traditional liberal views may be waning, according to a recent poll.
The Maryland Poll, conducted by Potomac Inc. of Bethesda for the Baltimore Sun, found voters in the state almost equally split on whether Democrats or Republicans would better be able to handle the state's problems a startling find in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans almost 2 to 1.
The poll surveyed 800 registered voters in Maryland by telephone Jan. 2 to Jan. 4, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Signs of a shift to the political right, perhaps influenced by the wartime popularity of the Republican president, emerge as Marylanders' views appear geographically fragmented.
Outside the city, the Baltimore area is growing more conservative, while the Maryland suburbs of Washington hold staunchly liberal beliefs.
"If you look at Baltimore's suburbs, you can see a clear Republican growth," said Donald F. Norris, policy-sciences professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.
Half of the registered voters surveyed support a ban on the sale of handguns 15 to 20 percentage points higher than in the nation overall and 49 percent say they're willing to delay a state income-tax cut scheduled to take effect this year. A clear majority is willing to protect the environment at the expense of jobs.
A year ago, the Maryland Poll found that 58 percent of voters supported spending state money for the health care of those without private insurance. In this recent poll, only 51 percent supported such a policy. And the percentage of people who would prefer to protect the environment at the expense of creating new jobs also dropped from 68 percent in 2001 to 60 percent in 2002.
"In a time of recession, you would expect those types of declines because people are more conscious of money and jobs," said Steven R. Raabe, executive vice president of Potomac Inc. "We know we're in a recession, but when you see a decline of only 7 or 8 points, it shows that the recession is not that severe in Maryland."
Nevertheless, the willingness of so many Maryland voters to consider the GOP when it comes to solving the state's problems suggests a growth of conservatism.
In the poll, 41 percent said Democrats would be best suited for that task, while 38 percent including almost one in five Democrats chose Republicans.
"Americans are very astute. They can be supportive of their leadership when the nation is under attack and still form opinions when it comes to domestic politics," said Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat and longtime political science professor at the University of Maryland at College Park.

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