And the Most Popular Governor in America Is…

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) at a National Governors Association event in Boston last year, with (left to right) New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D). Photo by Jeremy Fox

For years, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has been the most popular chief executive in the nation.

Move over, boss. There is a new #1.

According to the latest survey by Gonzales Research and Media Services, Maryland’s Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is the most popular governor in America.

Seventy-five percent of voters surveyed said they approve of the job Hogan is doing; only 17 percent disapproved.

As in other surveys taken over the last five years, Hogan’s appeal is exceptionally broad. Regardless of party affiliation, gender or age, Marylanders approve of the job he is doing by a nearly five-to-one margin. That includes 73 percent of Democrats.

“In this age of extreme political polarization, it is astonishing that men and women approve of Hogan in identical numbers, as do voters under 50 and those 50 and older,” wrote veteran pollster Patrick Gonzales in a memo.

“Further, in our 35 years of polling the voters of Maryland, we have never found a pol who was supported by 73% of Democrats, 77% of Republicans, and 78% of independents. These numbers indicate a versatile, Protean-like appeal we have not witnessed in a politician before…anywhere.”

For years, Hogan ranked second, behind Baker, and the two have exchanged friendly banter about their rivalry.

When Hogan attended a high-profile political breakfast in New Hampshire in April, as he sort-of mulled a bid for the White House, he flew to Boston the day before and dined with Baker.

In his remarks at St. Anselm College the next day, Hogan joked that he told Baker, “I’m gunning for him. … but I told him that the next [poll] that comes out, I’m going to be number 1, and he said, ‘bring it on.’”

The latest Morning Consult survey, covering the third quarter of 2019, put Baker at 73 percent support — dreamy but not enough to remain at the top.

Both men are Republicans in states where Democrats vastly outnumber GOP votes. The nation’s 10 most popular governors in the Morning Consult survey were Republicans.

“The vast majority of Marylanders are right where he is,” said former state Sen. Marty G. Madden (R), a one-time senior adviser to Hogan. “He’s steered Maryland right down the middle.”

Madden continued: “He’s kept his word, he respects people, he works hard. These are universally appreciated by all people, regardless of your party.”

The Gonzales survey queried 838 registered voters who indicated they are likely to vote in 2020. The poll was in the field from Dec. 23 through Jan. 4. It had a 3.5-point margin of error.

Hogan had numbers that President Trump could only envy.

Trump’s job approval rating in Maryland, according to the Gonzales poll, was only 37 percent, compared to 61 percent who disapproved.

But Maryland voters were much more evenly divided on the question of whether Trump, who has been impeached in the House of Representatives, ought to be removed from office. Half of Maryland voters believe the Senate should remove Trump from office, while 46 percent opposed such a move.

Voters weigh in on the issues

With the 2020 General Assembly session about to begin, nearly one-third of voters said — without prompting — that crime is the No. 1 issue Maryland government should tackle. That number may be the result of a spike in the murder rate in Baltimore.

Across the state, 31 percent of voters identified crime at the top of their issue list, while 16 percent said education is the number one issue, 11 percent said transportation, 9 percent said taxes, 9 percent said corruption, 6 percent said the opioid crisis, and 5 percent said health care.

In the poll, 57 percent of Marylanders indicated support for legalizing marijuana for recreational use, while 38 percent opposed it.

Marylanders had mixed views about the economy – 56 percent of voters rated economic conditions in the state today as either excellent (10 percent) or pretty good
(46 percent), but 41 percent rated the economy only fair or poor.

Asked about their confidence in the economy over the next year, 26 percent predicted things will improve, while 13 percent said things will get worse, and 55 percent said they believe economic conditions in the state will stay about the same.

“The most puzzling discovery from this question was that only 6 percent of those under the age of 40 believe the economy will improve over the next year, while 31 percent believe it will get worse,” Gonzales wrote in the polling memo. “This cynicism among millennials is pronounced.”

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.
Josh Kurtz
Founding Editor Josh Kurtz is a veteran chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He was an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for eight years, and for eight years was the editor of E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill. For 6 1/2 years Kurtz wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz regularly gives speeches and appears on TV and radio shows to discuss Maryland politics.