Headed into the home stretch of the election, Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. retains a 64 percent approval rating among residents in deep blue Maryland, potentially blunting hopes for a “blue wave” in the state come November. But the poll also revealed widespread support for policies that are part of the campaign platform for Democratic challenger Benjamin T. Jealous: a $15 minimum wage was supported by 71 percent polled, 62 percent said they supported legalization of marijuana, and 54 percent said they hold a favorable view of Medicare-for-All programs. With Jealous trailing in fundraising and advertising—his first television ad went live this week, after the Goucher Poll was completed by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College—the poll showed more work still needs to be done, political scientists said.
“Those are issues that can work to Ben Jealous’ advantage if he can better connect to those issues and to voters,” said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. But Marylanders’ opinion that their taxes are too high—as 56 percent of the 831 adults polled thought—could work against Jealous, who has faced questions about the potential price tag for his policy proposals, Eberly said. And when residents were asked to weigh their desire for Medicare for All against a priority of improving the way the federal Affordable Care Act works for the state of Maryland, more preferred sticking with changes to the existing federal law. Forty-seven percent of Maryland adults said they would rather improve the Affordable Care Act, while 29 percent said elected officials should adopt a statewide single pay Medicare-for-All plan.
“Support for a state-based Medicare for All plan distinguished Ben Jealous as a candidate for governor from the rest of field during the Democratic primary,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College. “However, opinions toward adopting a single-payer health care system are nuanced. Marylanders do view Medicare for All favorably, but a majority still prefers that elected officials focus on improving the way the Affordable Care Act is working for Maryland.”
Melissa Deckman, a political science professor at Washington College in Chestertown, said Hogan “positioned himself pretty well on that front,” supporting bipartisan legislation to reform the state’s Obamacare program last legislative session. “I’m not sure [Medicare for All] is really a winning position for Ben Jealous,” Deckman said.
Eberly said the question highlighted an issue dominating Democratic politics: Moderation or revolution? “That head-to-head suggests they prefer moderation,” Eberly said. And 48 percent of those polled said they consider Hogan a moderate. Forty-six percent of Democrats called Hogan a moderate, compared to 56 percent of Republicans who held that view. Millennials—those polled between 18 and 34 years old—were most likely to consider Hogan conservative, at 33 percent.
Whether voters would be truly mobilized to by the other positions—marijuana policy and minimum wage—remains to be seen. Support for both issues has steadily increased over time, but a majority of Marylanders (51 percent) are optimistic about their economic future. “It’s harder for Ben Jealous to win on economic messaging,” Deckman said.
Eberly said Democrats needed to nationalize the state race to successfully win back the governor’s mansion, and that’s a strategy that doesn’t seem to be sticking with voters. While President Donald J. Trump has just a 23 percent approval in the state, voters also indicate that they think Hogan has sufficiently distanced himself from the president. About 45 percent of those polled said Hogan had distanced himself “about the right amount” from Trump. About one-third of Democrats said Hogan had distanced himself too little, compared to 8 percent of Republicans who said the same thing. “I don’t see any evidence here of a blue wave building in Maryland,” Eberly said.
Breaking down Hogan’s approval rating, 67 percent of registered voters approved of the governor’s performance, including 56 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independent voters and 89 percent of Republicans. Hogan was most popular with registered voters 55 and older (78 percent) and white voters (73 percent). The governor’s lowest approval ratings came from millennials (49 percent) and black residents (47 percent). Geographically, the governor’s support was highest outside the Baltimore-Washington corridor, where it was 69 percent. The Goucher Poll surveyed 831 Maryland adults from Sept. 11-16. It had a margin of error of 3.4 points. Additional polling results are set to be released Wednesday.