By Colleen Wilson, Capital News Service
A public opinion poll released Thursday showed Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown significantly ahead of other Democratic candidates running for governor.
The data, gathered by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies Inc., also shed light on public approval of Gov. Martin O’Malley, recent Maryland issues and concerns about the 16-day government shutdown in Washington.
About 41 percent of likely Maryland voters said they would vote for Brown if the primary were held today. Attorney General Doug Gansler would capture 21 percent of the vote, five percent support Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Takoma Park), and 33 percent are undecided.
“It wasn’t much more of a year ago that people were still thinking that Gansler was the presumptive favorite here,” said Todd Eberly, an associate professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Brown’s campaign took action, Eberly said, noting that picking Howard County Executive Ken Ulman early on as a running mate while lining up endorsements were clear and effective game plans for his campaign.
However, Eberly said Gansler has opportunities: Thirty-seven percent of the people polled don’t know who he is.
“There’s room for him to grow,” Eberly said. “His concern really needs to be how many of those 37 percent learned who he was over the course of this weekend.”
The Washington Post reported last weekend that Maryland State Police received written accounts from some of Gansler’s drivers that he was “forceful” and violating safety codes while being driven to his destinations as attorney general. Gansler issued a statement the next day saying the article “is not an accurate reflection of reality” and apologized if his “backseat driving” made any state troopers uneasy.
Eberly said, “So now 37 percent is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing if he gets out there and defines himself. … He’s got plenty of time to recover; June is a lifetime away.”
The primary election is June 24, 2014.
Mizuer’s low voter support is probably largely due to the overwhelming majority, 78.7 percent, of people polled who indicated they didn’t recognize her name.
The governor also experienced lower numbers with a 48 percent approval rating, down six percentage points from January. It was the lowest approval O’Malley has had since October 2010.
Despite the dip in approval, Eberly said 48 percent is not far off from his normal stance with voters. During his time in office—since 2007—O’Malley’s average approval rating is 48.2 percent, according to data gathered regularly from Gonzales Research.
As O’Malley fared on average with state voters, the same group was also overwhelmingly concerned with the state of the economy during the federal government shutdown that ended late Wednesday night, concluding a more than two-week furlough of government employees and closure of federal agencies and national parks. Democrats, Republicans and independents all voted above 80 percent in their concern for the welfare of the fluctuating financial markets.
Republican and Democratic voters were also united in disapproval of the gas tax. About 50 percent of Democrats and 73.5 percent of Republicans strongly disapprove of the initiative to increase the tax on fuel. By 2016, Marylanders will be paying between 13 and 20 cents more than the 27-cent per gallon tax rate today.
“Democrat or Republican, if [gas] is suddenly costing you that much more to fill your tank, you’re not going to be happy about it,” Eberly said.
The partisan divide was present in most of the other issues polled, including gun control, the death penalty repeal and President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a law that will provide health care to those without insurance.
The telephone poll was conducted Oct. 1 through 14, with 819 likely Maryland voters. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.