- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — More than half of Maryland residents continue to approve of the job done by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and President Bush’s standing has improved slightly in the past four months, according to a poll released yesterday.

However, the poll, conducted by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies, also showed that Marylanders disapprove of the president’s handling of the war in Iraq by a 48 percent to 40 percent margin.

Though Mr. Bush’s slide in job-approval ratings appears to have ended, Democratic presidential hopeful and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was favored over Mr. Bush, according to the poll.

When asked who they would support in the presidential race next year, 48 percent chose Mr. Dean, the Democratic front-runner, and 41 percent supported Mr. Bush. They were tied in a Gonzales poll in August.

The poll showed two other potential Democratic challengers — Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — almost even with the president.

Asked about Mr. Bush’s job performance, 47 percent voiced approval, compared with 43 percent in August, and 46 percent disapproved, compared with 48 percent in August.

On the question of whether “it was worth going to war with Iraq,” 36 percent said “yes” and 51 percent said “no.”

The poll of 806 registered voters was taken Dec. 3 through Dec. 7 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

When asked whether they approved of Mr. Ehrlich’s performance, 55 percent said “yes” and 27 percent said “no.” The numbers for the Republican governor have been about the same in the three Gonzales polls taken this year.

Democrats were split almost evenly, with 38 percent approving of Mr. Ehrlich’s performance and 39 percent disapproving.

In Maryland, “a popular Republican incumbent needs to keep about a third of the Democratic vote content to remain in office,” said Patrick Gonzales, president of the polling company.

Voters also were asked about funding the Thornton Commission plan to increase money for public schools in the state.

Thirty-five percent said the school-aid bill should be funded fully next year, though the state faces an $800 million budget deficit. Fifty-four percent said funding should be spread over a longer period while the state deals with the deficit.

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