The Goucher Poll asked Maryland residents for their perspectives regarding perceptions of elected officials and institutions; most important issues and direction of the state; redistricting; state budgetary priorities; potential presidential runs of Martin O’Malley, Bob Ehrlich, and Ben Carson; key environmental issues, including fracking, the “rain tax,” and sources of pollution; transportation issues, including support for the Red and Purple Lines; and other issues being considered by the Maryland General Assembly.
Key Legislative Issues: Post-Labor Day Start, Transportation, Sick Leave, and Death With Dignity
Residents continue to support Comptroller Peter Franchot’s “Let Summer Be Summer” initiative. Seventy-two percent support a statewide mandate requiring schools to start after the Labor Day holiday; 19 percent oppose it. Respondents were then asked why they support or oppose a post-Labor Day start.
Top Reasons for Support:
- 20 percent say starting school before Labor Day is disruptive or “doesn’t make sense.”
- 18 percent say it benefits students.
- 18 percent say it benefits families.
- 15 percent say a post-Labor day start is “the way it always was.”
Top Reasons for Opposition:
- 27 percent think it will push the end of the school year too far into June.
- 20 percent think it will hurt students.
- 13 percent think the mandated change is not needed or would be disruptive.
- 13 percent think “more school is better,” or summer would be too long.
Marylanders were asked to give their preference on where the government should focus its spending in regard to transportation. Residents were divided on the issue, with half of residents indicating the state government should focus more on improving roads and highways and 45 percent saying the focus should be on improving public transportation.
More than half of Marylanders had heard “nothing at all” about the proposed Red Line transportation project in Baltimore (52 percent) or Purple Line transportation project in the Washington, DC, suburbs (53 percent).
Those who had heard at least “a little” about each respective project were asked if they support or oppose the construction of the Red and/or Purple Lines. Sixty-four percent of Marylanders who have heard of the projects say they support the construction of the Red Line, while 70 percent support the construction of the Purple Line.
Three-fourths of Marylanders support requiring businesses with staffs of 10 or more people to offer their employees an hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked; 21 percent oppose this proposal.
Marylanders were also asked about the “Death With Dignity” legislation recently proposed by state Senator Ron Young (D-Frederick and Washington). Respondents were asked if they support or oppose a policy that would allow terminally ill patients to obtain a prescription for a fatal dose of drugs from a willing doctor. Respondents were also informed that the bill requires the patient to be mentally competent, self-administer the drugs, and have less than six months to live. Sixty percent of residents support the policy, and 35 percent oppose it.
Perceptions of Public Officials, Government Institutions, and Redistricting
While most Marylanders are still unsure how to rate Governor Larry Hogan after his first month in office, those who can rate the job performance of the new governor view him in a positive light. Thirty-nine percent approve of the job he is doing; 17 percent disapprove; and 43 percent did not offer an opinion. Similarly, 33 percent have a favorable opinion; 21 percent have an unfavorable opinion; and 45 percent did not offer an opinion.
When asked about the Maryland General Assembly, 33 disapprove of the job it is doing, and 46 approve; 21 percent don’t know.
Compared with the fall Goucher Poll, Marylanders express a more optimistic view on the direction of the state: 54 percent think Maryland is going in the right direction, while 34 percent think things in the state are going down the wrong track. In terms of trust in government, 66 percent say they can trust the state government to do what is in the public’s interest “some” of the time; 5 percent say “all of the time;” and a quarter say “very little” or “none” of the time.
Twenty-four percent of residents think cooperation between the Democrats and Republicans in the state government will increase; 52 think it will stay about the same; and 21 percent think cooperation will decrease.
Respondents were asked to indicate what percent of seats in the Maryland General Assembly were held by women: 23 percent gave a correct response (25-35 percent); 61 percent underestimate the number (24 percent and lower); and 8 percent overestimate it (26 percent and higher). Currently, women hold 31% of the seats in the Maryland General Assembly—the seventh-highest in terms of women’s representation in the nation.
In regard to how Maryland should determine voting district lines, 23 percent prefer a system where districts are determined by the state’s elected officials, and 72 percent prefer a system where districts are determined by an independent commission. Currently, district lines in Maryland are determined by the state’s elected officials and are readjusted after each U.S. Census.
Residents were also asked to weigh in on the areas the state should and should not reduce spending. Fifty-seven percent of residents offered that they do not want to see a reduction in spending toward education and schools; 11 percent do not want a reduction in transportation and infrastructure spending. On the other hand, 35 percent of residents say they don’t know specific areas in which they would like cut; 10 percent would like a reduction in spending on government employees, jobs, and benefits; 8 percent would like a reduction on entitlement programs, welfare, and other forms of social assistance.
Marylanders identify the economy and jobs (24 percent), taxes (19 percent), and education (16 percent) as the biggest issues facing the state.
“The Hogan administration is off to a good start in the eyes of many Marylanders. Understandably, with only a month of service under his belt, many residents are still unsure how to rate the new governor—but overall trust in the state government and views on the direction of the state are more positive than in recent years,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center. “His support for redistricting reform and focus on economic, job, and tax issues has broad backing in the constituency. However, he will have to find common ground with Democrats in the General Assembly on funding education if he wants to earn high approval ratings from the citizenry moving forward.”
Marylanders and the U.S. Presidency
President Barack Obama continues to earn higher job approval ratings among Marylanders than he does nationwide; 57 percent approve of the job he is doing, while 36 disapprove. Fifteen percent approve of the job Congress is doing.
Three Marylanders have been mentioned as potential candidates for the 2016 presidential election—former governors Martin O’Malley and Bob Ehrlich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
Thirty-one percent of Marylanders think Martin O’Malley should run for president in 2016—a 12-point increase from the fall 2014 Goucher Poll. Twenty-two percent of residents think Bob Ehrlich should run, and 30 percent think Ben Carson should run.
Environmental Issues: Fracking, Pollution in the Bay, and the Storm Water Management Fee
Residents were asked their opinions on fracking, the storm water management fee, and sources of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
Forty-five percent of residents oppose hydraulic fracturing in Maryland, and 36 percent support it. Forty-two percent of Marylanders support a ban on the drilling practice; 39 percent oppose a ban. Fifty-seven percent think the word “fracking” carries a negative connotation.
A majority of Marylanders recognize there are high or moderate levels of hydraulic fracturing that occurs in the neighboring states of Pennsylvania (55 percent) and West Virginia (53 percent).
Residents were then asked their opinions on key economic and environmental concerns in regard to fracking.
- 60 percent agree the gas industry benefits from natural gas extraction at the expense of local communities and citizens; 30 percent disagree.
- 59 percent agree increasing taxes on natural gas drilling will discourage drillers from doing business in the state; 36 percent disagree.
- 59 percent agree natural gas drilling in Maryland poses a major risk to the state’s water resources; 31 percent disagree.
- 46 percent agree Maryland has lost out on economic growth to neighboring states because of our state’s policies on hydraulic fracturing; 34 percent disagree.
Residents were asked about their perceptions concerning sources of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
- 60 percent view agricultural pollutants as a major source.
- 59 percent view waste water pollutants as a major source.
- 52 percent view fossil fuels pollutants as a major source.
- 35 percent view storm water runoff as a major source.
- 34 percent view home and yard pollutants as a major source.
- 27 percent view sediment from upstream from places such as the Conowingo Dam as a major source.
Marylanders were also asked to weigh in on the much-debated storm water management fee, commonly called the “rain tax.”
About half of the respondents to the survey were given a question with the phrase “rain tax” included. The other half of respondents were given the same questions without the inclusion of the phrase “rain tax.”
For respondents who received the question without “rain tax” included:
- 51 percent oppose residents paying a storm water management fee to offset environmental damage to the Chesapeake Bay caused by runoff from surfaces such as driveways, roofs, and sidewalks; 46 percent support it.
For respondents who received the question with “rain tax” included:
- 62 percent oppose residents paying a storm water management fee—sometimes called the “rain tax”—to offset environmental damage to the Chesapeake Bay caused by runoff from surfaces such as driveways, roofs, and sidewalks; 36 percent support it.
“While most increases or additional fees are met with public scrutiny, few have received the amount of sustained negative attention and public outcry as the storm water management fee,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center. “Our results show that residents do not view runoff from their properties as a major source of pollution in the bay. Couple this perception with major tax and fee fatigue among residents and add in the politically savvy labeling of the storm water management fee as a tax on the rain, and you have a major headache for environmentalists and likeminded Democrats in the state.”
Marijuana and Heroin
Fifty-two percent of Marylanders support making the use of marijuana legal in Maryland; 44 percent oppose.
When asked which substance is the most harmful to a person’s overall health, 46 percent say tobacco is the most harmful, followed by alcohol (22 percent), and sugar (13 percent). Eight percent think marijuana is more harmful to a person’s overall health than tobacco, alcohol, or sugar.
Fifty-five percent disagree that marijuana is a “gateway drug”—i.e., it leads to the use of hard drugs; 43 percent of respondents agree.
Nearly three-quarters of Marylanders view heroin as a major problem in Maryland today; 20 percent think it is a minor problem. Less than 1 percent of residents think it is not a problem at all.
Residents were then asked how the state should address heroin abuse in the state:
- 35 percent think the state should focus on arresting and prosecuting heroin dealers.
- 32 percent think the state should focus on treating and rehabilitating heroin users.
- 23 percent think the state should improve heroin awareness and prevention programs.
- 4 percent think the state should focus on arresting and prosecuting heroin users.
Recent reports of measles have heighted nationwide attention on the subject of childhood vaccinations. In general, most Marylanders agree vaccines are effective at presenting disease (95 percent) and that non-vaccinated people pose a public health risk (83 percent). Nearly three-quarters of respondents think only vaccinated children should be allowed to attend public and private schools.
For more information, including the survey methodology and survey question design, please click here.
Additional crosstabs of the survey results are available upon request, and Mileah Kromer, the director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, is available for comment. She can be reached at email@example.com or 410-337-3296. For additional media requests, please contact Kristen Pinheiro, senior director ofcommunications, at 443-253-3680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.