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Hogan Loves His Poll Numbers — But Not the Way They’re Reported

When it comes to his poll numbers, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) thinks the media sometimes miss the point.

Reporters and news anchors will often refer to Hogan as “popular” — a shorthand way of referring to the public’s satisfaction with the way he handles his job, as reflected in years’ worth of polling on the subject.

Turns out, this sticks in his craw a bit.

“Everyone says ‘popular,’ but they aren’t popularity” measures, Hogan told Maryland Matters during a brief walk-and-talk interview on State Circle recently. “You’ve gotta come up with a new headline.”

Hogan’s point — and he knows this from the large volume of polling he does himself — is that job approval is a fundamentally more important metric than mere favorability.

“On the fave/unfave, the numbers are sometimes very different. This one is not likability,” he said of a Gonzales poll that came out the day before the General Assembly session started two weeks ago. “It’s about, ‘Hey, the guy is doing a great job.’”

“That’s not popularity.”

In his second inaugural address last week, Hogan talked at length about three men who helped form his political identity, former President George H. W. Bush, the late U.S. Sen. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.) and his father, the late congressman and Prince George’s County executive Lawrence J. Hogan Sr. (R).

All three men were independent-minded leaders, Hogan said, who did what their conscience and sense of duty called upon them to do, regardless of the political consequences.

“I think the governor is making important distinction here,” said political science professor Mileah Kromer, director of the Goucher Poll.

“I think that he’s drawing a factual nuance, that job approval ratings do get at people’s evaluation of your leadership and priorities as governor, [your] effectiveness and how well you’ve executed your goals.”

She said the three conditions that pollsters test — right direction/wrong track, job approval and favorability — often overlap. And typically they tend not to differ from one another all that much. But they do measure different aspects of public opinion.

“He’s correct in drawing a distinction,” she said, adding that it’s natural for Hogan, now in his second term, to begin thinking about his “legacy.”

“When he’s 80 years old, it’s a powerful thing to say, ‘People really approved of the job I did,’ more so than, ‘They liked me.'”

“You can write a different story,” Hogan said. “I’m, like, a stickler for facts.”

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