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Election 2024 Government & Politics

Goucher Poll: Incumbent trouble in Baltimore City, crime a top issue

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D). Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Two top Democrats in Baltimore City find themselves trailing in head-to-head matchups presented in a new poll released Tuesday by Goucher College.

Former Baltimore Mayor Shelia Dixon enjoys an early lead over incumbent Mayor Brandon Scott in a Democratic primary, according to the survey.

Meanwhile, in his reelection bid, City Council President Nick Mosby finds himself trailing challenger Councilman Zeke Cohen by double digits, according to the poll.

“Incumbency comes with immense power but also accountability,” said Mileah Kromer, a political science professor and director of the Goucher Poll. “Given the frustrations over crime and city services expressed by voters, it’s not surprising that both Mayor Brandon Scott and City Council President Nick Mosby are facing tough reelection contests from viable challengers. With so many voters saying they want to see other candidates in the race, the key electoral dynamics to watch over the next few months are whether other high-quality candidates get into those respective races — and, of course, whether the incumbents can improve their standing with the public.”

The Goucher Poll is one of two released Tuesday. The poll, done in partnership with The Baltimore Banner, was conducted between Sept. 19-23.

The poll surveyed 711 registered city voters about their opinions of key city officials, local issues, the direction of the city and optimism about its future. That portion of the poll has a margin of error of 3.7%.

A second portion of the poll surveyed 537 registered Democrats regarding the 2024 Baltimore City primary contests for mayor and City Council president. That poll has a margin of error of 4.2%.

A separate survey released by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research and Media Services on Tuesday reported bumps in approval ratings for President Joe Biden and Gov. Wes Moore (D) and differing views on juvenile justice.

Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon (D) launched a campaign for her former office in 2024. Screenshot from campaign video.

Dixon, who last month announced her third run for mayor following a plea agreement in a 2010 perjury case, enjoys a 12-point early lead over Scott, the incumbent, according to the Goucher Poll.

Thirty-nine percent of registered city Democrats surveyed said they favored Dixon compared to 27% who said they would vote to re-elect Scott. Another 23% said they would prefer another candidate and 8% said they were undecided.

However, when voters who initially said they would prefer another candidate were asked who had the better chance of winning their vote, Scott narrowly edged out Dixon: 36% to 33%, respectively. Roughly 21% said they would still prefer neither or would not vote and 7% said they were undecided.

More than half of those surveyed — 53% — said they held an unfavorable view of Scott; about 37% said they view him favorably.

Voters were more evenly split on their feelings about Dixon with 47% holding a favorable view of the former mayor while 45% held an unfavorable view.

But those same voters said Dixon was better able than Scott to manage and staff city government, work with private business on economic development issues, reduce crime and improve public safety, improve education, and attract and retain city residents.

Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

In the race for City Council president, 17% said they would vote to re-elect Mosby while 30% said they would vote for Cohen. However, 34% said they would prefer another candidate and 18% said they were undecided.

Other key attitudes toward city officials include:

  • 37% approved of the job Brandon Scott is doing as mayor, 56% disapproved, and 5% did not know.
  • 34% approved of the job Richard Worley is doing as Baltimore City police commissioner, 33% disapproved, and 32% did not know.
  • 31% approved of the job the Baltimore City Police Department is doing, 60% disapproved, 7% did not know.
  • 26% approved of the job Sonja Santelises is doing as CEO of Baltimore City Schools, 51% disapproved, and 21% did not know.
  • 26% approved of the job Nick Mosby is doing as Baltimore City Council president, 60% disapproved, and 13% did not know.

Electoral trouble for incumbent Democratic leaders in the city tracks closely with views on the direction of the city and the issues affecting it.

Newly elected Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates (D) fared the best with 57% of city voters saying they approved of his job performance so far. Twenty-one percent said they disapproved and 20% said they did not know.

“The persistent problem of crime and frustrations toward city schools and services have certainly soured attitudes toward elected officials — with the notable exception of City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates, who earns solid job approval numbers — and the direction of the city,” said Kromer.

Crime a top issue

Dissatisfaction with top city officials appears to align with voters’ concerns about the current state of Baltimore City.

Nearly two-thirds of voters surveyed said the city is on the wrong track compared to 21% who said it is headed in the right direction.

Even so, 55% said they remain optimistic about the future of the city, according to the poll.

Crime in the city, which has reported 300 or more murders in each of the last eight years, remains a top concern. Nine out of 10 voters said crime was a major issue.

Almost half those surveyed — 47% — said crime has gotten worse in their neighborhood. Another 40% said it has “stayed about the same,” according to the poll.

Other findings related to crime in the city include:

  • 63% think young Baltimoreans are more likely to be a victim of crime than they were last year.
  • 91% support allocating more city resources to address youth violence.
  • 85% support increasing police presence and the number of patrols throughout the city.
  • 81% support imposing stricter gun control laws and related punishments for gun crimes.
  • 79% support imposing harsher punishments for violent offenders.
  • 75% support allocating funding from the police budget to various social, mental health, and drug treatment programs.
  • 58% support increasing the rate of prosecution for non-violent offenses like drug use, petty theft, and vandalism.
  • 48% said funding for the Baltimore City Police should be increased, 28% said it should be kept about the same, and 16% think it should be decreased.

Other “major issues” identified by voters include:

  • Litter and illegal dumping — 76%.
  • A lack of affordable housing — 74%.
  • The local tax rate — 66%.
  • A lack of employment or job opportunities —58%.
  • Inadequate public transportation —51%.
  • Sixty-three percent of Baltimore City voters give public schools a “D” or “F” grade.
  • Nearly six in ten city voters surveyed gave Baltimore City government services a grade of D or F.


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Goucher Poll: Incumbent trouble in Baltimore City, crime a top issue