Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Gonzales Poll: O’Malley Holding Steady

A brand new poll by Gonzales Research shows lots of voter concern about the economy but also shows no significant reduction in Governor O’Malley’s approval rating from January. Additionally, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski looks to have an easy ride to re-election.

Here are the key findings of the poll, which has not yet been posted on Gonzales’ website.

1. Economy, Health Care and Taxes are Top Issues
The economy is ranked as the top issue by 43% of voters, down from 61% in January. The next most important issues are health care (13%), taxes (12%), the budget deficit (7%) and education (7%). Gonzales says, “The fact that 55% of Maryland voters cite either the economy or taxes as most important issue is a warning signal for incumbent officeholders.”

2. O’Malley’s Approval Rating Nearly Unchanged
The Governor’s approval rating is 48% in September, virtually identical to January’s rating of 49%. His disapproval rating holds steady at 37%. (Incidentally, our readers gave O’Malley a 51% approval rating, almost the same as this finding by Gonzales.)

O’Malley benefits from the partisan slant of the state. Gonzales says, “By party, 68% of Democrats approve of the job O’Malley is doing as governor and 20% say they disapprove; but among Republicans, only 16% approve of the job O’Malley is doing, while 66% disapprove; among independents, 41% approve and 39% disapprove.”

Former Governor Bob Ehrlich has a 42% favorable and 26% unfavorable rating. Former Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele has a 40% favorable and 34% unfavorable rating. O’Malley leads Ehrlich 49-38% in an election matchup. He leads Steele 52-37%.

3. Mikulski Looks Strong
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski has a 67% approval rating, her highest in Gonzales’ tracking. Gonzales says, “Among Maryland voters, 55% say they will re-elect Barbara Mikulski next year, only 19% say they’ll definitely vote to replace, while 26% say they would like to consider another candidate… Barbara Mikulski has averaged 67% in her 4 elections… she appears headed toward another easy re-election.”

4. Voters Oppose All Budget Deficit Remedies
Seventy-five percent of the voters say the budget deficit is “a very big problem.” But here are the voters’ reactions to each potential solution for the deficit.

Reduce state aid for public education
Favor: 16%
Oppose: 80%

Reduce state services for the poor
Favor: 22%
Oppose: 70%

Increase the state income tax
Favor: 26%
Oppose: 67%

Reduce state aid for higher education
Favor: 27%
Oppose: 67%

Increase the state sales tax
Favor: 31%
Oppose: 64%

Reduce state funding for environmental programs
Favor: 38%
Oppose: 56%

Reduce state funding for transportation projects
Favor: 40%
Oppose: 51%

5. Many Potential O’Malley Challengers Have Low Name Recognition
The primary is less than a year away. O’Malley’s potential rivals have little time to build their statewide name identification, a key advantage for the Governor.

All in all, the poll is good news for Martin O’Malley but contains some warning signs for incumbents in competitive districts.